Mexico's armed forces number about 225,000. The air force is a semiautonomous organization that reports to the head of the army, and together the army and air force make up about three-fourths of that total. The navy is a completely autonomous cabinet agency, and there is no joint chief of staff position. Principal military roles include national defense, narcotics control, and civic action assignments such as search and rescue and disaster relief. Mexico’s federal, state, and municipal police forces number approximately 500,000, including analysts and investigators. At the state and local level, police are generally divided into "preventive" and "judicial" police. Preventive police maintain order and public security and generally do not investigate crimes. As noted previously, the Mexican Congress passed legislation in 2009 expanding the investigative and intelligence capabilities of the Federal Police, which itself has expanded from 20,000 personnel to approximately 32,000 over the last 18 months.
President Calderon has made combating organized crime a priority of his administration and, to that end, has deployed the Mexican military to 10 Mexican states to assist (or replace) the weak and vulnerable local and state police. Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) have responded to increased pressure on their activities with unprecedented levels of violence directed at both the government’s security forces and each other. Narcotics-related violence took the lives of over 8,000 individuals in 2009, with over half killed in states along the U.S. border; of this total over 400 members of Mexico’s security forces were killed. The Mexican military has demonstrated a willingness to carry out aggressive operations against the DTOs as evidenced by its December 2009 operation against one of Mexico’s most notorious drug leaders, Arturo Beltran Leyva, who died in the ensuing gun battle. As the military has stepped up its engagement in law enforcement activities, allegations of human rights abuses against the military have also increased.
Mexico’s efforts to reform its judicial sector and professionalize its police forces reflect its commitment to promote the rule of law and build strong law enforcement institutions to counter the threat posed by organized crime. The U.S. assists Mexico in this effort through the Merida Initiative, which directly supports programs to help Mexico train its police forces in modern investigative techniques, promote a culture of lawfulness, and implement key justice reform. Elements of the reconstituted police force will begin to replace the military in strategic locations in early 2010.