Sunday, August 25, 2013

Civilian militias soar, with citizen police now patrolling 50 counties in 13 Mexican states

"From the machete to the AK-47"

Guadalajara -
While Mexican army and marine troops continue to take down key drug lords in diverse regions of the country, having scored three notable victories this year, the first units of a new national gendarmerie, billed as a crack paramilitary force which will assist and supplement the Federal Police, are preparing for an advertised Sept. 16 debut at independence day festivities in Mexico City.

It's clear that federales wearing one uniform or another are still in charge of the drug war, just as they have been since it was launched 81 months ago, in December 2006, by the previous administration. Mexican army captures leader of Gulf Cartel.

But in small towns law enforcement is decidedly more rustic. In 50 counties spread across almost half of Mexico's 31 states, autodefensas, also known as policías comunitarias, are now providing most or all security in many local communities. Their numbers have soared since January, several national news sources reported today.

Mexico has long relied upon out-in-the-sticks constables, sometimes called rurales, to patrol remote provinces. But those who once were armed only with an old shotgun or pistol are now carrying high powered, ultra-modern weapons of war, which under Mexican law are reserved for the exclusive use of the army and federal security forces. That has the government worried, especially in the southwestern states of Michoacán, Chiapas and Guerrero where the most heavily armed autodefensas are located.

In early March the new administration said it wouldn't tolerate them. Peña Nieto's drug war czar says no to Mexican militias. Two months later the president sent several thousand troops into Michoacán, supposedly to rid the area of both warring drug cartels and the civilian militias which, depending upon whose version you accept, are either allies or enemies of organized crime in the region. Ninety days later, federal troops are still there. So are the civilian police, and three or four major cartels. Fiasco in Michoacán suggests little has changed under new government, and security prognosis remains poor.

On July 28 a Mexican vice admiral was ambushed and killed in Michoacán, together with his escort. His wife was seriously wounded in the attack, as were several other military personnel. Only three days before the president told a press conference, "Regrettably, parts of the state have passed into the hands of organized crime." Federals will remain in Michoacán, promises Peña Nieto. Both events occurred the same week that civilian militias stopped advancing Mexican army troops near Acapulco, in neighboring Guerrero state.

In Michoacán and Guerrero citizen police forces have also sometimes marched along side and given protection to dissident school teachers, who have their own history of civil disobedience and violent conflicts with federal and state authority, thus further compounding the problem of local insurrection. PRI government shows no resolve against thug teachers.

It's clear the entire region is in trouble, and that residents have little or no confidence in traditional security forces. That's why they've taken law enforcement into their own hands, according to Raúl Plascencia Villanueva, president of Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH)

"The rise of local self-protection units was not expected, and clearly some people are doing things which the law does not allow. But they're responding to the inability, or the perceived inability, of the State to provide them with basic security," CNDH maintains. Nobody expects the situation to get better any time soon, and policías comunitarias are likely to further proliferate across the country.

Sept. 22 - Autodefensas se expanden a 10 estados del país
Sept. 3 - Gobierno federal no tolerará justicia por propios medios
Aug. 27 - Mexican press: PRI government is lying about drug war deaths - the real number is 13,775, in just eight months
Aug. 27 - Delay in arrival of federal gendarmerie units; Peña Nieto claims major progress in drug war
Apr. 11 - Mexico's problematic policías comunitarias will prompt some to argue Failed State theories.
Feb. 1 - Thank God for the Mexican army
Sept. 24, 2011 - The daily obscenities of Mexico
Aug. 27, 2011 - Mexico's continuing agony

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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