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Citation Information

Type Working Paper
Title Army as Police? Correlates of Public Confidence in the Police, Justice System, and the Military: Mexico in Comparative Context
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
Typical responses to the perceived escalation of violent crime throughout most of Latin
America are to increase the size and powers of the regular police and—in most cases—to
expand the involvement by the armed forces to confront both common and organized
crime. Participation by the armed forces in domestic policing, in turn, has sparked
debates in several countries about the serious risks incurred, especially with respect to
human rights violations. In Mexico the debate is sharpened by the extensive violence
linked to conflicts among drug-trafficking organizations and between these and the
government’s security forces, in which the Army and Navy have played leading roles.
Using World Values Survey and Americas Barometer data, we examine trends in public
confidence in the police, justice system, and armed forces in Mexico over 1990-2010.
Using Vanderbilt University’s 2010 LAPOP survey we compare levels of trust in various
social, political, and government actors, locating Mexico in the broader Latin America
context. That survey also poses questions about the appropriateness of the military acting
as domestic police in fighting crime. Here we ask: Is public support for using the military
as police widespread and generalized across the sample? Or are there patterns of support
and opposition with respect to public opinion?
Our main findings are that: (1) the armed forces rank at the top with regard to trust, and—
while trust in other Mexican institutions tended to decline in 2008-2010--trust in the
military increased slightly; (2) respondents indicate that the military respects human
rights more than the average and substantially more than the police or government
generally; (3) public support for the military in fighting crime is strong and distributed
evenly across the ideological spectrum and across socio-demographic groups; and (4)
patterns of support emerge more clearly with respect to perceptions, attitudes, and
performance judgments.
By way of conclusion we consider some of the political and policy implications of our

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