Mexican Marines are the only force the government can depend on in fighting the drug cartel criminal insurgency

National Interests:
Compared to their counterparts in the United States, the United States Navy and Marine Corps, the Mexican Navy is small— around sixty-six thousand. The Mexican Naval Infantry, their Marine Corps, is even smaller— numbering only about eighteen thousand.

In contrast to the United States Marine Corps and the United States Navy, the Mexican Navy’s main missions have typically been coastal protection, which in the United States would fall to the U.S. Coast Guard. Assisting the civilian populace following earthquakes or other natural disasters, defending oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, intercepting boat-born migrants, and drug interdiction through boarding and seizing boats and semi-submersible narco submarines.

Despite their small size, they are the go-to force when combating the Mexican criminal organizations involved in drug trafficking—widely trusted and seen as more reliable than the Army. They’ve also racked up a string of successes, despite being many times smaller than the Mexican Army.

For historical reasons, United States troops in Mexico are a taboo topic. An intensely nationalistic streak runs through the Mexican Army. Lingering resentment against the United States runs deep. For this reason, the Mexican Army conducts little training with the United States.

The Mexican Navy was spared most of the humiliation experienced by the Army during the 1916–1917 American expedition into Mexico to capture Pancho Villa, or during the 1914 American occupation of Mexican port city Veracruz. Being sea-based, the Mexican Navy also did not suffer nearly as many losses as the Army during the Mexican-American war, which was predominantly a land conflict. As a result, Mexico is one of the least connected of the Latin American countries to the United States, militarily speaking.

Therein lies the reason for the Navy’s reputation as an efficient and professional fighting force, unhampered by deep-rooted corruption endemic in the Mexican government and military. “In the last 10 years, UIN [Mexican Naval Intelligence] has become the most trusted Mexican intelligence service for the DEA and DIA,” explained Dr. Raúl Benitez-Manaut, a professor at the National University of Mexico, and an expert on Mexican security and defense issues. “[The Navy’s] construction was based on a lot of training in the United States, UK, France, and Spain. It has civilian and military intelligence teams unlike the Army, which are only military.”

Part of their success lies simply in being based at sea, rather than land. Unlike the Mexican Army, Mexican Naval Infantry does not have extensive inland bases, giving them a measure of insulation from cartels—and corruption opportunities.

Since it is a significantly smaller branch than the Army, the Navy is much more tight-knit. Naval officers have a closer relationship with each other, as most are graduates of Mexico’s naval academy. Closer personal ties help to prevent secrets deals and backdoor cash—subjecting officers to random polygraph tests also helps.
The Navy enjoys a high degree of trust from the Mexican people. According to a recent poll conducted by the Mexican newspaper El Financiero, the Navy, at 69 percent, is the most trusted organization in Mexico. This trust stems in large part from the steadily rising number of successful land operations they’ve conducted since their expanded responsibilities.

“One of the Naval Infantry’s most important achievements was the dismantling of the criminal structure of the Los Zetas group, in the state of Veracruz, from 2008 to 2012,” said Dr. Benitez-Manaut. Unlike the Army, the Navy has sought out help from the United States and American Special Forces in honing their capabilities in order to improve the chances of mission success against various cartels and criminal groups.
There is more.

Taking out the Zetas was no small thing.  They are about the only institution in Mexico that is trustworthy when it comes to challenging the criminal insurgency of the drug lords.


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