Mexican Army shifts counternarcotics strategy in Chihuahua subject logo: MEX2013
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By Chris Covert

As shootings and drug and gang related violence continue in southern Chihuahua, commanders with the Mexican Army are announcing their intentions to stay in northern border states, according to Mexican news accounts.

A news account which appeared on the website of Azteca Noticias reported a joint announcement of Chihuahua Governor Cesar Duarte Jaquez and Mexican Army chief General Salvador Cienfuegos that a new army base would be built in Guachochi municipality housing 600 soldiers and their families. No date was given for either beginning or the conclusion of the construction of the army base.

If the number of soldiers to be deployed at the base is accurate the base will be one of the largest non garrison facilities in Mexico. Mexican Army bases which dot the country usually house a company sized element including about 100 effectives with support staff adding even more. The base in Guachochi will house 600 soldiers including support staff, or the equivalent of a rifle battalion.

Guachochi is in the Mexican 42nd Military Zone command area.

The new deployment adds credence to the notion that Mexico's military commanders are concentrating their efforts in the Mexican sierras where law and law enforcement are at premium, leaving the cities and the highway to Mexican civilian security forces.

Earlier in the year Mexico's military commanders made much of the intention of the new national administration of president Enrique Peña Nieto to return the military to the barracks and to have Mexico's police forces take over security duties nationwide.

Sometime last summer, commanders signaled a definitive shift in strategy, by making much of their intentions to remain in areas where drug and gang related violence is the worst.

The most recent announcement by General Cienfuegos was that the Mexican Army would remain also in Nuevo Leon state.

Pena's security strategy of making states take on more security duties was also amplified by dividing the country into five regions and holding numerous meetings between state politicians and their security staff, and Mexico's federal security apparatus. Central to that is to include all national police and militaries under the Secretaria de Gobernacion or interior ministry.

But problems with the strategy in using state resources abound.

Last December as President Peña was taking the reins of power, his Secretaria de Gobernacion, Miguel Osorio Chong continued to push a police certification program requirement begun during the term of the prevous President Felipe Calderon, that all police agents are certified, or they should lose their jobs. The original time period began in 2011, and was extended by the national Chamber of Deputies for a deadline of November 1st, 2013.

But now it appears with barely 75 percent of all state and local police certified nationwide, The deadline has been extended yet another year.

Results in the various state were mixed at best, with two on the six northern border state with percentages of certified police above 80 percent. That was in August. Since that time Nuevo Leon has announced their police certification program completed.

Chihuahua state, where the new military base is expected to be built, as of last August, was in the bottom 10 with just over 51 percent certified. Tamaulipas, easily Mexico's most violent state. was reported dead last with just under 40 percent.

Problems in security continue in Chihuahua state, especially in the southern municipalities.

In El Diario de Juarez Wednesday it was reported that only five municipalities out of 51, have submitted candidates to be approved by the state Chamber of Deputies.

According to Antonio Andreu, President of the Chihuahua state Chamber of Deputies, the five municipalities with police chiefs confirmed by the Chamber of Deputies include Nuevo Casas Grandes, Camargo, Ahumada, Ciudad Juarez and Aquiles Serdan. All are northern or central municipalities.

According to the news story, Chihuahua state's failure in police certifications has led to the large number of municipalities with no confirmed police chiefs. Andrieu said that no deadline exists for confirming new police chiefs, and new police chiefs must be certified.

Chihuahua state went through a mid term election earlier in the summer. Normally by this time all municipalities should have their staff appointed, approved and in place.

Elsewhere in southern Chihuahua, eight unidentified individuals are being investigated as disappeared according to a news account which appeared in the online edition of El Sol de Parral news daily.

Quoting head of the Policia Estatal Unica Division Investigaciones, Pablo Ernesto Rocha, police will begin search operations in Guadalupe y Calvo municipality, focusing in the villages of Corta, Los Charcos and El Vergel. Earlier in the spring and summer, kidnappings and shootings in southern Chihuahua were do bad that young males were refused public transportation for fear of recruiting efforts by local criminal gangs. The latest admission of missing persons by a top state police officials indicates that the violence in the region has not been tempered.

Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for and He can be reached at

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