The slow retreat

NOV DemilitarisationMyths of Demilitarization in Postrevolutionary Mexico, 1920–1960
Thomas Rath
2013, University of North Carolina Press
244 pages


RECENT repression in Guerrero, which has been at the epicentre of angry eruptions of protest in Mexico against a violent, corrupt state apparatus, reminds us that even though the armed forces have not been formally implicated in what happened, their legacy is profound. For the violence monopolised by states in Latin America and traditionally meted out by militaries was always directed internally, against their own citizens, and until well into the 1970s that remained the case in Mexico. Nowhere was that more apparent than in Guerrero, which was the main theatre in which Mexico’s state conducted its counter-insurgency war at the height of the Cold War, and paid a high price in bloodshed. The legacy of the Mexican military’s internal orientation seems implicit in the recent violence within this southern state in which young Marxist student teachers recently became the unfortunate targets of a complex and opaque machinery of repression whose tendrils, it may ultimately transpire, lead back to the federal state. Thomas Rath’s interesting study of demilitarisation, something that many Mexicanists take for granted as a product of the institutionalisation of the revolution, shows us that this was in fact much more protracted, conflict-ridden and, above all, incomplete than most accounts assume.