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Mexico Uniforms, Ranks, and Insignia
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Mexico originally adopted its system of officer ranks from the Spanish military. With some modifications, it has been retained in the modern armed forces. The highest rank within the Secretariat of National Defense is the rough equivalent of a general in the United States Army. The only officers with the rank of general are current army officers and former secretaries of national defense. Generals are identified by insignia composed of four silver stars and a gold eagle worn on their epaulets (see fig. 12). The next highest rank, open to both army and air force personnel, is the equivalent of lieutenant general. Although there is no difference between the Spanish name for this rank and that held by secretaries of national defense, the officers are separately identified by three stars and an eagle. The rank equivalents of major general and brigadier general are distinguished, in addition to the emblem of the gold eagle on their epaulets, by two silver stars and one silver star, respectively.

    Officers holding the rank of colonel command certain brigades and cavalry regiments, serve as chiefs of staff for military zones, or manage staff directorates. Colonels are identified by three gold stars arranged in a triangle on their epaulets. The equivalents of lieutenant colonels, a select few of whom may command a battalion or cavalry squadron but most of whom serve as instructors or administrative aides, wear two gold stars. Majors sometimes serve as second-in-command of battalions or squadrons, but usually are assigned to personnel management and training. They are identified by a single gold star.

    Other commissioned ranks include first captain and second captain, both comparable to the United States rank of captain. First captains wear three gold bars on the epaulet; second captains have two-and-one-half gold bars. Captains command companies, squadrons, and batteries. Below these ranks are first lieutenants, with two gold bars, and second lieutenants, identified by a single gold bar.

    The rank insignia of commissioned naval officers consist of gold stripes above the sleeve cuff, the uppermost stripe incorporating a braided loop. The rough equivalents of the United States Navy's ranks of admiral, vice admiral, and rear admiral wear insignia consisting of a wide gold stripe plus narrow and looped stripes. The equivalents of admiral and vice admiral are consolidated. The sleeve insignia of other officer ranks are similar to those of the corresponding ranks of the United States Navy, except that the upper stripe is looped. Officers of marine infantry units are distinguished by red piping on their insignia of rank.

    The rank titles and rank insignia for enlisted personnel in the army and air force are the same (see fig. 13). The highest rank, sergeant 1st class (or master sergeant), is recognized by green epaulets with three horizontal red bars. The next two lowest ranks, sergeant and private 1st class (or corporal specialist), are distinguished by two and one horizontal red bars, respectively. The soldado de primera , corresponding to the United States rank of private in the army and airman in the air force, has two short vertical red bars. The lowest rank for each service, basic private or airman basic (soldado ), wears a plain green epaulet.

    The rank insignia of enlisted naval personnel are indicated by white stripes above the sleeve cuff. Enlisted personnel in the navy have only three ranks, chief petty officer, petty officer, and seaman. A chief petty officer has three white stripes and a petty officer two. A seaman has a single V-shaped stripe.

    The army officer corps has a blue dress uniform and a dark field-green service uniform. A khaki uniform is used for hot weather. The uniforms worn by naval personnel, including marines, are standard dark blue or white. The dress uniforms of army enlisted personnel are dark field-green; their branch of service is designated by a colored bar displayed on the epaulet. Infantry personnel wear a scarlet red bar; cavalry, hussar blue; artillery, crimson; armored, gray; and engineers, cobalt blue. The air force uniform was modified somewhat from that of the army in the early 1980s. Air force personnel are identified by purple bars. Members of the elite airborne brigade are distinguished by their camouflage fatigues and purple berets. Dress uniforms for enlisted army personnel include the use of helmets as headgear. Members of the officer corps wear caps with elaborate visor decorations and rank designations.

    Public Order and Internal Security

    Criminal activity, much of it engendered by narcotics trafficking and production, has, since the 1970s, constituted the most serious problem facing military and police agencies concerned with internal security. Mexico's leaders are increasingly conscious of the threat that drug cartels, with enormous funds and weapons at their disposal, pose to the nation's political and social stability. The illicit movement of drugs generates huge amounts of money that can be employed to corrupt public officials at both the state and federal levels. Traffickers also can assemble large weapons arsenals, which contribute to the atmosphere of lawlessness in society (see Narcotics Trafficking, this ch.).

    Until the uprising in Chiapas in 1994, revolutionary activity amounting to insurrection against the state had not been a major source of concern for several decades. Groups that sprang up to exploit the plight of the downtrodden and the disparities between the rich and poor have failed to coalesce into a single movement powerful enough to threaten the stability of the central government. The fragmentation of the forces of protest has been ascribed to several factors, including the territorial expanse and geographic diversity of the country, the preoccupation with local injustices suffered at the hands of those holding economic power, and the government's determination to deal harshly with any threat to public order.

    During the late 1960s and early 1970s, several guerrilla organizations operated in the countryside. The three principal groups were the National Revolutionary Civic Association, the Mexican Proletarian Party, and the Party of the Poor. Each was directed by a charismatic leader, who eventually was tracked down and killed in confrontations with the military or police. None of the groups was able to carry on organized operations after its leader's death.

    The police claimed in 1981 that they had destroyed the last cell of the Twenty-Third of September Communist League, the largest and longest-lived of Mexico's urban guerrilla groups. The league reportedly had incorporated members from several other urban guerrilla fronts. Many terrorist acts were committed in the name of the league before its eradication, including the kidnapping of two United States consular officers in 1973 and 1974 (one officer was freed after a ransom was paid, and the other was murdered).

    Data as of June 1996

    NOTE: The information regarding Mexico on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Mexico Uniforms, Ranks, and Insignia information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Mexico Uniforms, Ranks, and Insignia should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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