Mexico: Towns Arm Themselves For Self-Protection Against Organized Crime

People wearing bandanas and carrying small arms man a checkpoint in Teconoapa, in the Mexican state of Guerrero, Friday, Jan.
People wearing bandanas and carrying small arms man a checkpoint in Teconoapa, in the Mexican state of Guerrero, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. Several hundred civilians have taken up arms in two towns in the southwestern Mexico state and are arresting people suspected of crimes and imposing a curfew. Leaders said they were acting against crime and insecurity. Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre Rivero responded Friday by announcing that security in the region would be bolstered by sending in Mexican soldiers and marines and federal and state police officers. (AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez)

The NRA, conservatives and anti-gun control advocates in the U.S make the claim over and over that they have the right to carry weapons. They point to the second amendment which reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

While the argument that American citizens will take up arms against its government, or create militias to patrol unsafe streets seems like something out of a science fiction novel, but Mexican citizens in small towns in Mexico are doing exactly that.

Forget the uprisings by the Zapatistas, the EPR (Popular Revolutionary Army) and ERPI (Insurgent People’s Revolutionary Army). This time, it’s average citizens in towns in Guerrero who are fed up with crime and a government that is doing nothing to help them. The people have banded together to take back their towns in the municipalities of Tecoanapa and Ayutla de Los Libres.

The Mexican paper, El Universal, reports that in Ayutla de los Libres, the town has voted to continue civil resistance despite warnings from State officials who have warned them that this type of self-defense acts are violent acts and against the law. But the people in Ayutla believe they have a right to arm themselves and take matters into their own hands.

In the U.S. some state laws allow citizens to shoot intruders or attackers in self-defense or if they feel threatened, such as the Stand Your ground law in Florida where the notorious case of Trayvon Martin captured world attention last year. In that incident, George Zimmerman, acting as a neighborhood watch coordinator, shot Martin, a youth who was unarmed.

In Mexico many towns and municipalities are managed by a centuries old “usos y costumbres” or customs and traditions system that govern the population and help keep towns functioning as they have for decades and even centuries, especially in places where state and federal presence is almost non-existent. Now, in the municipalities of Tecoanapa and Ayutla de Los Libres, “usos y costumbres” is being pitted against state and federal law.

The people of La Costa Chica de Guerrero are fed up with the insecurity and crime

The people of these towns, in La Costa Chica de Guerrero, in western Mexico, have given their support to their community police and volunteers armed with hunting rifles, small caliber handguns and machetes. They have created roadblocks and are patrolling the streets. The people are fed up with organized crime, which they say extorts money from peasants and farmers, like charging 500 pesos a year to small farmers.

This area of Mexico has been notorious for drugs and armed uprisings by guerrilla groups since the 1960s. But the citizens of these municipalities say there is no police presence. They claim they had to do something. Even though Guerrero State governor, Angel Aguirre Rivero, met with the mayor of Ayutla and agreed to implement the state’s security program, Guerrero Seguro, in the municipalities, the town’s militia continue to patrol the streets and check cars coming and going from town. The group, Union of Peoples and Social Organizations of Guerrero, claimed they had arrested at least 30 people, accusing them of drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping.

This is nothing new. Despite gun ownership being illegal in Mexico (there are a few loopholes) other towns throughout Mexico have been arming themselves and taking action into their own hands. In Colonia LeBaron, Chihuahua, about 130 miles southwest of El Paso, where drug and organized crime reign, a community of Mormon farmers armed themselves after one of their own was kidnapped and two were murdered in cold blood. But when soldiers appeared at the gate of one of the farms, a firefight ensued and a soldier was killed. Two members of the LeBaron community were charged with murder, but the charges were dropped by a judge because of evidence tampering.

Ironically, during the six years of former resident, Felipe Calderon’s tenure, more federal police and soldiers have been assigned to fight crime and the war on drugs. But it appears as if these battles and the patrolling don’t reach the isolated pockets of the country. Now, fighting fire with fire and ignoring federal laws might bring attention to President Pena Nieto’s new government; and just perhaps, they might do something about it and help these poor, isolated communities.

This article originally appeared on VOXXI under the title "Mexicans Arm Themselves Against Crime In Small Towns."

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