Mexico vigilantes kill criminal - claim

2013-02-21 13:00
Mexico police. (File, AP)

Mexico police. (File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Mexico City - Armed vigilantes in southern Mexico engaged in a shootout on Wednesday with a group of men they described as criminals, killing one in what appeared to be the first death related to the month-and-a-half-old "self-defence" movement.

The confrontation near the town of Ayutla raised the stakes in a growing movement that has seen residents of several towns arm themselves with a motley assortment of old hunting rifles, shotguns and pistols while conducting patrols and manning checkpoints to fight crime spawned by drug cartels.

Bruno Placido, leader of the vigilante movement in the southern state of Guerrero, said one of the civilian patrols caught sight of a group of armed men, who opened fire on the patrol.

"There was one killed on the side of the criminals," he said.

The masked vigilantes frequently stop passing motorists to search for weapons or people whose names are on hand-written lists of "suspects" wanted for crimes like theft and extortion.

The vigilantes have opened fire before on motorists who refused to stop, slightly wounding a pair of tourists from Mexico City visiting a local beach in early February.

Prisoners turned over to police


The shootout on Wednesday came one day after the vigilantes freed the last of 42 people detained on suspicion of crimes ranging from theft to extortion and murder, a move that authorities had hoped spelled the beginning of a new, more regulated phase for the "self-defence" groups.

The Guerrero state government said the vigilantes turned 20 of the final detainees over to police. It said the other 22 had been suspected of lesser offenses and were released on Tuesday because the vigilantes considered they had been sufficiently punished.

"The state government foresees that the release of these detainees closes a chapter, and sets things on the road to institutionalising and regulating community police forces," the state government said in a statement.

Placido, the vigilantes' leader, confirmed that some prisoners had been turned over.

State officials hope the vigilantes can be persuaded to join already-established "community police" forces that operate in some Guerrero towns, where unmasked residents with some training and minimal uniforms, usually printed T-shirts, perform routine patrols and turn over suspects to town assemblies. Following local custom, those assemblies try the suspects and can impose some sentences.

The recently formed "self-defence" groups, however, have none of those trappings. They consist of men wearing ski masks and bandanas over their faces while manning the improvised highway checkpoints and patrolling rural areas.

Improvised block committees


Residents tired of rampant crime set up the roadblocks in early January and detained about 53 people. They held the detainees at improvised jails in villages around Ayutla, in some cases for more than 1 month. They released the first 11 detainees in early February.

While local media have reported that self-defence groups have spread to 36 communities in eight states, that may exaggerate their numbers. For example, assistants to the mayors of two towns in the State of Mexico, next to Mexico City, where self-defence groups had reportedly formed, denied that any vigilante committees existed in their towns.

But "self-defence" represents an attractive option for some rural towns in Guerrero and neighbouring states like Michoacan and Morelos. Because official forces are woefully inadequate and often corrupt, vigilante groups can press to have their members hired by local governments as backup security forces.

Even in some of the rougher neighbourhoods on Mexico City's eastern outskirts, improvised block committees have formed to fight crimes like burglaries and muggings.

"No More Robberies! If We Catch You, We Will Lynch You!" reads one banner that a local block committee hung across the street in the town of Texcoco, east of the capital. A local resident who works at a car wash said residents organized the block committee, called "Vigilant Neighbour Committee", about two years ago in the face of frequent home robberies.

Residents ring local church bells to alert each other if they see a crime in progress. The man said they had caught thieves but hadn't lynched any. "The police usually come to pick them up before anything can happen," said the car-wash employee, who did not give his name for fear of reprisals.

Police reform

"Before, they would just come into your house to steal, and you would say, 'Sure, take whatever you want,'" said the man. "But nowadays, they beat your family, they start attacking your family."

Eduardo Gallo, a prominent anti-crime activist, said the armed community groups pose the danger of becoming vengeful mobs, "but that is what the citizenry is being forced into when they don't have any public safety".

Gallo said the "self-defence" groups are likely to hang on, and perhaps grow, if authorities don't guarantee public safety in the wave of drug cartel violence and common crime.

Police reform has a long way to go in Mexico, with only about half of the country's police officers vetted and subjected to background checks.

"I think we are going to see the self-defence phenomenon grow a bit more, and even see them turn into revenge groups, until this hits bottom and the government begins to change its attitude," Gallo said.

- SAPA
Read more on:    mexico  |  mexico drug war
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!

Find out who and what South Africans were most curious about in 2014!

 
 

I love summer.24

This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem
The world's least visited destination is breathtaking!
LOL treadmill fail!
Google’s top searches of 2014

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be emotionally defensive or reserved today. You need to step up today as there may be extra responsibilities to deal with....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.