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Could Mexico's Version of the Marine Corps Crush the Cartels?

Caleb Larson

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. 

An Ossified 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. 

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