Dirty War (Mexico)

The Mexican Dirty War (Spanish: Guerra sucia) refers to the Mexican theater of the Cold War, an internal conflict in the 1960s and 1970s between the Mexican PRI-ruled government under the presidencies of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, Luis Echeverría and José López Portillo, which were backed by the US government, and left-wing student and guerrilla groups.[8][9] During the war, government forces carried out disappearances, estimated at 1,200,[10] systematic torture, and "probable extrajudicial executions".[11]

The judicial investigation into State crimes against political movements was opened only until the end of the 71-year long PRI regime and the accession to power of Vicente Fox in 2000, which created the Special Prosecutor's Office for Social and Political Movements of the Past (FEMOSPP). However, despite revealing much about the history of the conflict, the FEMOSPP has not been able to finalize prosecutions against the main instigators of the Dirty War.[12]

In March 2019, the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, publicly released the archives of the defunct Federal Security Directorate, which contain a great amount of previously undisclosed information about the Dirty War and the political persecution by the PRI governments in the 20th century. López Obrador stated that "We lived for decades under an authoritarian regime which limited freedoms and persecuted those who struggled for social change" and issued an official apology on behalf of the Mexican State towards the victims of the repression. López Obrador further stated that judicial action will be taken against the surviving perpetrators of the repression, and promised that the surviving victims will be able to claim compensation under the law.[13][14]

Dirty War
Part of the Cold War
L'exèrcit al carrer 30 de juliol

Mexican Army soldiers in the streets during the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre

Government victory

  • Continued rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party
  • Most leftist guerrilla groups disbanded

After the conflict

  • Implementation of neoliberal policies.[5]
  • Several acts of violence have not yet been clarified.[6]
  • Political defeat of the PRI in the 2000 presidential elections before the National Action Party (PAN).
  • Grouping of the political left and formation of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).[7]

Left-wing groups[1]

Mexico Mexico

Supported by:

Casualties and losses
Estimated more than 3,000 people disappeared and executed, 3,000 political prisoners, and 7,000 tortured[1]:8


Cartel de Félix Barrientos Campos
Poster denouncing the forced disappearance of Felix Barrientos Campos, arrested on July 5, 1975 in Acapulco (Guerrero, Mexico) and whose whereabouts are unknown until the date of the poster's placement in 2010. The announcement was placed in the Alameda Central of Mexico City.

The war was characterized by a backlash against the active student movement of the late 1960s which ended in the Tlatelolco massacre at a 1968 student rally in Mexico City,[11] in which 30 to 300 (according to official reports; non-governmental sources claim death toll in the thousands) students were killed, and in the Corpus Christi massacre, the massacre of student demonstrators in Mexico City on June 10, 1971.[8]

There were several barely connected groups fighting against the government during this period. Among the most important, the September 23 Communist League was at the forefront of the conflict, active in several cities throughout Mexico, drawing heavily from Christian Socialist and Marxist student organizations. They carried out confrontations with Mexican security forces, several kidnappings, and attempted to kidnap Margarita López Portillo, the sister of the president. In Guerrero, the Party of the Poor, ostensibly fighting against landholder impunity and oppressive police practices in rural areas, was led by the ex-teacher Lucio Cabañas; they carried out ambushes of the army and security forces and the abduction of Guerrero's governor-elect.[11]

The legalization of left-wing political parties in 1978 along with the amnesty of imprisoned and at large guerrillas caused a number of combatants to end militant struggle against the government. However, certain groups continued fighting, and the National Human Rights Commission states the hostilities continued into 1982.[11]

In June 2002, a report prepared for Vicente Fox, the first president not from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 70 years, detailed the government's actions from 1964 to 1982. The report states, according to BBC News, that the Mexican army "kidnapped, tortured, and killed hundreds of rebel suspects" in the period and accused the Mexican state of genocide. The Mexican Special Prosecutor claimed the report was overly biased against the military and that it failed to detail crimes committed by rebels, including kidnappings, bank robberies, and assassinations.[11][15] However, general consensus is that the report accurately assessed the government's culpability. Instead of ensuring the security of innocent civilians, it victimized them and killed them alike.[16][17][18][19][20][21]

Guerrilla groups

The year 1960 marked the beginning of a decade of terror in the region of Guerrero as the state slowly began to deal with the citizens and peasants there ever-more violently.[1]:46 The state enacted the acts of suppression on Guerrero to keep the numerous different political reform movements stifled, as the local people over time grew agitated with the way the government was wielding its power and meddling with their rights. As the citizens grew more determined to speak out against the government in the 1960s, the PRI continued to increase its terror tactics in the region. While that was done to keep the populace under its control, the constant stream of violence pushed many guerrillas to consider raising up arms against the PRI.[1]:46

The rising of guerrilla groups in the 1960s and 1970s provided the state an excuse to focus its resources on suppressing the armed activities of the guerrillas. The army would become infamous for its tactics in repressing the rebels in the rural areas of Mexico, where such practices such as the death flights were initiated.[22]

This period of state violence in the state of Guerrero helped to bring about numerous guerrilla organizations. One of the groups was the Party of the Poor (PDLP), which was influenced by Marxism and people like Che Guevara.[23] That group tended to be focused more on the rural regions like Guerrero, where they would be more likely to find support among the peasants there. The PDLP actions become more violent towards the rich after events such as the 1967 Atoyac massacre, where leaders like Lucio Cabañas tried to use the peasants anger to bring about true revolution.[24]

As the 1960s and 1970s would go on, the PDLP would gain attention around the nation for acts like its kidnapping of Ruben Figueroa who was a prominent leader of the PRI.[25] While this act inspired those downtrodden by the government, this also marked the decline of the organization as the government began to focus more on taking out this guerrilla group. Eventually the army found and killed Cabañas on December 2, 1974 in an attempt to cause his movement to fall apart.[26] Another school teacher turned revolutionary, Genaro Vázquez Rojas, founded the National Revolutionary Civic Association (ACNR) as a response to the governments actions in Guerrero. These two leaders and their movements emerged as the armed phase of this social struggle against a corrupt government, which would continue long after the deaths of the leaders.[1]:42


Torture was one of the many tools used by the PRI-run state in its drive to keep the numerous guerrilla groups and political dissidents repressed. While torture was illegal in many countries during this time, the numerous authoritarian regimes that sprung up from the Cold War used it to great effect. The Mexican state used torture to get information from captured rebels and guerrillas about attacks and plans. This torturing would be done at any number of clandestine detention centers, where guerrillas would be sent to before arriving at a legal prison so as the state's activities would be kept secret from outside sources.[27] Typically both male and female guerrilla prisoners would be tortured at these areas. It was more common for women to be sexually assaulted by their guards. This, combined with other forms of physical and psychological gender-based transgressions leads some to believe that the state employed this form of gender policing to try and deter women from breaking the regimes social and political norms.[28]

The detaining and torturing of political prisoners became more systematic after the student uprisings in 1968, for the government decided that heavy-handed responses were necessary to deal with the unrest. [29] This stage of violent and public repression of differing ideals was similar to the regimes of the Southern Cone governments, such as Argentina.


While Mexico's Dirty War has been over for several years, not much is known of the extent of the number of victims the war claimed, due to its elusive nature throughout its length.[30] Part of the reason for this problem is that since there was no large-scale truth commission to bring justice to the perpetrators and closure for the victim's families, Mexico never had its "Pinochet moment" in regards to the war.[1]:207 Another problem was the lack of response in the wake of the 2006 report by Carillo Prieto, which documented some of the atrocities inflicted by the PRI regime. Despite this evidence of numerous crimes that violated human rights, ex-president Echeverria and several other PRI officials had their cases dismissed and became free men.:207 The failure by the government to address these problems of the past has been a cause of tension at times in Mexico, as citizens become distrustful of a state that does not address the old regime and its reign of terror.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Calderon, Fernando Herrera; Cedillo, Adela (2012). Challenging Authoritarianism in Mexico: Revolutionary Struggles and the Dirty War, 1964–1982. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-88904-9.
  2. ^ "El gobierno creó en 1976 brigada especial para "aplastar" a guerrilleros en el valle de México - la Jornada".
  3. ^ "La "brigada blanca", otro escuadrón de la muerte: Eduardo Valle - Proceso". September 23, 1978.
  4. ^ Forero, Juan (November 22, 2006). "Details of Mexico's Dirty Wars From 1960s to 1980s Released". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  5. ^ http://www.ejournal.unam.mx/rca/191/RCA19105.pdf
  6. ^ "Fue Un Dos de Octubre".
  7. ^ "ELECCIONES-MEXICO: Fox gana la Presidencia". July 3, 2000.
  8. ^ a b Reuters Editorial (April 5, 2007). "Rights group urges Mexico to resolve "dirty war"". Reuters. Retrieved October 29, 2016.
  9. ^ Michael Evans. "The Dawn of Mexico's Dirty War". Gwu.edu. Retrieved October 29, 2016.
  10. ^ Reuters Editorial (July 8, 2008). "Mexico looks for 'dirty war' graves on army base". Reuters. Retrieved October 29, 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d e "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 8, 2013. Retrieved March 7, 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ http://catarina.udlap.mx/u_dl_a/tales/documentos/lri/garcia_r_d/capitulo2.pdf
  13. ^ "Mexico's president opens archives on 'dirty war period". Yahoo News. AFP. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  14. ^ Zavala, Misael. "Estado pide perdón a víctimas de represión". El Universal. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  15. ^ "Americas | Mexico 'dirty war' crimes alleged". BBC News. February 27, 2006. Retrieved October 29, 2016.
  16. ^ Jornada, La. "Sedena extendió acciones de la guerra sucia contra campesinos inocentes - La Jornada". Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  17. ^ "Desaparecidos. 'Guerra sucia' deja 480 víctimas". Eluniversal.com.mx. August 16, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  18. ^ "Padre de uno de los 43 admite que su hijo fue militar, pero "desertó" - Proceso". Procesco.com. June 23, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  19. ^ "EPN ha provocado una cacería brutal de inocentes por medio de escuadrones de la muerte: expertos". Revoluciontrespuntocero.com. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 2, 2015. Retrieved September 29, 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ "Urgente, una ley general de desaparición forzada". Animalpolitico.com. September 21, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  22. ^ Garcia, Jorge M. (November 2016). "Reconstructing the Collective Memory of Mexico's Dirty War". Latin American Perspectives. 43 (6): 124–140. doi:10.1177/0094582X16669137.
  23. ^ Avina, Alexander (2014). Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 138–139. ISBN 978-0-19-993659-5.
  24. ^ Avina, Alexander (2014). Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-19-993659-5.
  25. ^ Avina, Alexander (2014). Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-19-993659-5.
  26. ^ Avina, Alexander (2014). Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 160. ISBN 978-0-19-993659-5.
  27. ^ Garcia, Jorge M. (November 2016). "Reconstructing the Collective Memory of Mexico's Dirty War". Latin American Perspectives. 43 (6): 124–140. doi:10.1177/0094582X16669137.
  28. ^ MacManus, Vivianna B. (March 2015). "We are not Victims, we are Protagonists of this History". International Feminist Journal of Politics. 17 (1): 52 – via Discover @ Georgia Southern.
  29. ^ McCormick, Gladys (January 2017). "The Last Door: Political Prisoners and the Use of Torture in Mexico's Dirty War". Americas. 74 (1): 60 – via Humanities Full Text, EBSCOhost.
  30. ^ McCormick, Gladys (January 2017). "The Last Door: Political Prisoners and the Use of Torture in Mexico's Dirty War". Americas. 74 (1): 61 – via Humanities Full Text, EBSCOhost.
1976 Argentine coup d'état

The 1976 Argentine coup d'état was a right-wing coup that overthrew Isabel Perón as President of Argentina on 24 March 1976. A military junta was installed to replace her; this was headed by Lieutenant General Jorge Rafael Videla, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera and Brigadier-General Orlando Ramón Agosti. The political process initiated on 24 March 1976, took the official name of "National Reorganization Process", and the junta, although not with its original members, remained in power until the return to the democratic process on December 10, 1983.

The coup d'état had been planned since October 1975, and the United States Department of State learned of the preparations two months before its execution. The American secretary of state Henry Kissinger would meet several times with Argentinian military leaders after the coup, urging them to destroy their opponents quickly before outcry over human rights abuses grew in the United States.

ASEAN Declaration

The ASEAN Declaration or Bangkok Declaration is the founding document of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It was signed in Bangkok on 8 August 1967 by the five ASEAN founding members, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand as a display of solidarity against communist expansion in Vietnam and communist insurgency within their own borders. It states the basic principles of ASEAN: co-operation, amity, and non-interference. The date is now celebrated as ASEAN Day.

Arms race

An arms race occurs when two or more nations participate in interactive or competitive increases in "persons under arms" as well as "war material". Simply defined as a competition between two or more states to have superior armed forces; a competition concerning production of weapons, the growth of a military, and the aim of superior military technology.

The term is also used to describe any long-term escalating competitive situation where each competitor focuses on out-doing the others.

An evolutionary arms race is a system where two populations are evolving in order to continuously one-up members of the other population. This concept is related to the Red Queen's Hypothesis, where two organisms co-evolve to overcome each other but each fails to progress relative to the other interactant.

In technology, there are close analogues to the arms races between parasites and hosts, such as the arms race between computer virus writers and antivirus software writers, or spammers against Internet service providers and E-mail software writers.

More generically, the term is used to describe any competition where there is no absolute goal, only the relative goal of staying ahead of the other competitors in rank or knowledge. An arms race may also imply futility as the competitors spend a great deal of time and money, yet end up in the same situation as if they had never started the arms race.

Asian Relations Conference

The Asian Relations Conference took place in New Delhi in March-April 1947. It was hosted by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who then headed a provisional government that was preparing for India's Independence, which came on 15 August 1947. The Asian Relations Conference brought together many leaders of the independence movements in Asia, and represented a first attempt to assert Asian unity. The objectives of the conference were "to bring together the leading men and women of Asia on a common platform to study the problems of common concern to the people of the continent, to focus attention on social, economic and cultural problems of the different countries of Asia, and to foster mutual contact and understanding."

In his writings and speeches, Nehru had laid great emphasis on the manner in which post-colonial India would rebuild its Asia connections. At this conference Nehru declared: "... Asia is again finding herself ... one of the notable consequences of the European domination of Asia has been the isolation of the countries of Asia from one another. ... Today this isolation is breaking down because of many reasons, political and otherwise ... This Conference is significant as an expression of that deeper urge of the mind and spirit of Asia which has persisted ... In this Conference and in this work there are no leaders and no followers. All countries of Asia have to meet together in a common task ..."

Eisenhower Doctrine

The Eisenhower Doctrine was a policy enunciated by Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 5, 1957, within a "Special Message to the Congress on the Situation in the Middle East". Under the Eisenhower Doctrine, a Middle Eastern country could request American economic assistance or aid from U.S. military forces if it was being threatened by armed aggression. Eisenhower singled out the Soviet threat in his doctrine by authorizing the commitment of U.S. forces "to secure and protect the territorial integrity and political independence of such nations, requesting such aid against overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by international communism". The phrase "international communism" made the doctrine much broader than simply responding to Soviet military action. A danger that could be linked to communists of any nation could conceivably invoke the doctrine.

Exercise Verity

Exercise Verity was the only major training exercise of the Western Union (WU). Undertaken in July 1949, it involved 60 warships from the British, French, Belgian and Dutch navies. A contemporary newsreel described this exercise as involving "the greatest assembly of warships since the Battle of Jutland."

Frozen conflict

In international relations, a frozen conflict is a situation in which active armed conflict has been brought to an end, but no peace treaty or other political framework resolves the conflict to the satisfaction of the combatants. Therefore, legally the conflict can start again at any moment, creating an environment of insecurity and instability.

The term has been commonly used for post-Soviet conflicts, but it has also often been applied to other perennial territorial disputes. The de facto situation that emerges may match the de jure position asserted by one party to the conflict; for example, Russia claims and effectively controls Crimea following the 2014 Crimean crisis despite Ukraine's continuing claim to the region. Alternatively, the de facto situation may not match either side's official claim. The division of Korea is an example of the latter situation: both the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea officially assert claims to the entire peninsula; however, there exists a well-defined border between the two countries' areas of control.

Frozen conflicts sometimes result in partially recognized states. For example, the Republic of South Ossetia, a product of the frozen Georgian–Ossetian conflict, is recognized by eight other states, including five UN members; the other three of these entities are partially recognized states themselves.


In the Russian language the word Glasnost (; Russian: гла́сность, IPA: [ˈɡɫasnəsʲtʲ] (listen)) has several general and specific meanings. It has been used in Russian to mean "openness and transparency" since at least the end of the eighteenth century.In the Russian Empire of the late-19th century, the term was particularly associated with reforms of the judicial system, ensuring that the press and the public could attend court hearings and that the sentence was read out in public. In the mid-1980s, it was popularised by Mikhail Gorbachev as a political slogan for increased government transparency in the Soviet Union.

Guerra sucia

Guerra sucia is Spanish for dirty war, an offensive conducted by a regime against dissidents, marked by the use of torture and forced disappearance of civilians.Guerra Sucia may specifically refer to:

Dirty War (Argentina, 1974-1983), period of state-sponsored violence against dissident and other citizens carried out by the military governments of Jorge Rafael Videla and others.

Dirty War (Mexico), 20th-century internal conflict between the US-backed PRI government and left-wing student and guerrilla groups.

GAL (Spain, 1983-1987), illegal death squads established to fight Basque separatist militants.

Guerrilla war in the Baltic states

The Guerrilla war in the Baltic states or the Forest Brothers resistance movement was the armed struggle against Soviet rule that spanned from 1940 to the mid-1950s. After the occupation of the Baltic territories by the Soviets in 1944, an insurgency started. According to some estimates, 10,000 partisans in Estonia, 10,000 partisans in Latvia and 30,000 partisans in Lithuania and many more supporters were involved. This war continued as an organised struggle until 1956 when the superiority of the Soviet military caused the native population to adopt other forms of resistance. While estimates related to the extent of partisan movement vary, but there seems to be a consensus among researchers that by international standards, the Baltic guerrilla movements were extensive. Proportionally, the partisan movement in the post-war Baltic states was of a similar size as the Viet Cong movement in South Vietnam.


Hoxhaism is a variant of anti-revisionist Marxism–Leninism that developed in the late 1970s due to a split in the Maoist movement, appearing after the ideological dispute between the Communist Party of China and the Party of Labour of Albania in 1978. The ideology is named after Enver Hoxha, a notable Albanian communist leader.

Jamaican political conflict

The Jamaican political conflict is a long standing feud between right-wing and left-wing elements in the country, often exploding into violence. The Jamaican Labor Party and the People's National Party have fought for control of the island for years and the rivalry has encouraged urban warfare in Kingston. Each side believes the other to be controlled by foreign elements, the JLP is said to be backed by the American Central Intelligence Agency and the PNP is said to been backed by the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro.

Johnson Doctrine

The Johnson Doctrine, enunciated by U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson after the United States' intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965, declared that domestic revolution in the Western Hemisphere would no longer be a local matter when "the object is the establishment of a Communist dictatorship". It is an extension of the Eisenhower and Kennedy Doctrines.

NDF Rebellion

The NDF Rebellion was an uprising in the Yemen Arab Republic by the National Democratic Front, under Yahya Shami, between 1978 and 1982.

Nixon Doctrine

The Nixon Doctrine, also known as the Guam Doctrine, was put forth during a press conference in Guam on July 25, 1969 by President of the United States Richard Nixon and later formalized in his speech on Vietnamization of the Vietnam War on November 3, 1969. According to Gregg Brazinsky, author of "Nation Building in South Korea: Koreans, Americans, and the Making of a Democracy", Nixon stated that "the United States would assist in the defense and developments of allies and friends", but would not "undertake all the defense of the free nations of the world." This doctrine meant that each ally nation was in charge of its own security in general, but the United States would act as a nuclear umbrella when requested. The Doctrine argued for the pursuit of peace through a partnership with American allies.


Titoism is described as the post-World War II policies and practices associated with Josip Broz Tito during the Cold War, characterized by an opposition to the Soviet Union.It usually represents Tito's Yugoslav doctrine in Cold War international politics. It emerged with the Yugoslav Partisans' liberation of Yugoslavia independently of, or without much help from, the Red Army, resulting in Yugoslavia being the only Eastern European country to remain "socialist, but independent" after World War II as well as resisting Soviet Union pressure to become a member of the Warsaw Pact.

Today, Titoism is also used to refer to Yugo-nostalgia, a longing for reestablishment or revival of Yugoslavism or Yugoslavia by the citizens of Yugoslavia's successor states.

Ulbricht Doctrine

The Ulbricht Doctrine, named after East German leader Walter Ulbricht, was the assertion that normal diplomatic relations between East Germany and West Germany could occur only if both states fully recognised each other's sovereignty. That contrasted with the Hallstein Doctrine, a West German policy which insisted that West Germany was the only legitimate German state.

East Germany gained acceptance of its view from fellow Communist states, such as Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria, which all agreed not to normalise relations with West Germany until it recognised East German sovereignty.

West Germany eventually abandoned its Hallstein Doctrine, instead adopting the policies of Ostpolitik. In December 1972, a Basic Treaty between East and West Germany was signed that reaffirmed two German states as separate entities. The treaty also allowed the exchange of diplomatic missions and the entry of both German states to the United Nations as full members.

Western Bloc

The Western Bloc during the Cold War refers to capitalist countries under the hegemony of the United States and NATO against the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. The latter were referred to as the Eastern Bloc. The governments and press of the Western Bloc were more inclined to refer to themselves as the "Free World" or the "Western world", whereas the Eastern Bloc was often called the "Communist world or Second world".

Frozen conflicts
Foreign policy
See also

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