It appears that a struggle by our Mexican neighbors south of the border has been largely ignored by the American media. For the past year citizens of Mexico have been arming themselves and taking on the drug cartels and corrupt police officers.
Vigilante groups have been springing up in southern Mexico since early February of this year. Then in August, vigilantes attacked a local police station in Tixtila, a town in the state of Guerrero. The police were beaten with rifle butts and then handcuffed. Assault rifles, pistols, and ammunition were stolen.
This clash has served to highlight the confusion in the Mexican government’s efforts to deal with these “self-defense groups.” It seems the vigilantes in Tixtila got away scot-free, because there were no arrests following the incident.
In Mexico the police are commonly accused of committing more crime than they prevent and the vigilantes have won significant popular support. Perhaps it was this feeling of distrust that led to the deaths of five men in Apatzingan over the weekend of October 26th.
The weekend’s violence started after a group of vigilantes marched on the city of Apatzingan. A gunfight broke out between members of the Knights Templar cartel, federal forces, and the vigilantes. Apparently the five killed were from the vigilante group. At days end the vigilantes withdrew, after saying they were going to make sure the cartel was expelled from Apatzingan.
A few hours later the cartel responded by firebombing nine electrical substations, which left some 400,000 people without electricity.
While the vigilantes near Apatzingan apparently have some support from federal forces, the government has shown no tolerance for similar groups in the state of Guerrero. It appears that in this area, which is controlled by the Los Rojos cartel, the cartel operates with the complicity of government authorities, and vigilantes have been arrested and had their weapons seized.
In August the authorities arrested the female leader of one of the vigilante groups. The woman, Nestora Salgado, took charge of an uprising in October 2012 that began during the funeral for a taxi driver who had been murdered.
During this uprising the townspeople stormed the local police station, disarmed the police, and set up barricades in an attempt to prevent the cartel gunmen from returning to town. Salgado, at last report, was being held in a high security jail, hundreds of miles from her home. She is accused of kidnapping.
Hoping to avoid further arrests, the vigilantes of Guerrero have retreated into their strongholds and hidden their higher caliber guns, but there is no evidence that they are about to disband.
It’s apparent that the Mexican government is afraid that these vigilantes will become a guerrilla force and have marked the region as a place where the seeds of insurgency could grow into a full blown civil war.
Quote for the Week: “A drowning man will grab the blade of a sword.”----Unknown.