Weekly News Summary: February 22

Coffee by Flikr user samrevelThe Mexico Institute’s “Weekly News Summary,” released every Friday afternoon, summarizes the week’s most prominent Mexico headlines published in the English-language press, as well as the most engaging opinion pieces by Mexican columnists.

What the English-language press had to say…

This week, auto defensa vigilante groups in the state of Guerrero released the last of the 42 alleged criminals they had kept hostage for almost two months, avoiding a showdown with government authorities. The leader of one such group reported the first casualty since the movement began in early January. Human Rights Watch released a scathing report blaming Mexico’s police and military forces of involvement in several dozen missing person cases. The government pledged to address the issue by, among other things, collecting DNA samples from the families of the disappeared in an effort to match missing persons’ reports with thousands of unidentified corpses found in recent years. In Tamaulipas, an anonymous Facebook and Twitter campaign continued to attract thousands of followers eager to receive unofficial updates on organized crime. International observers drew attention to the lack of safety that journalists working in Mexico face.

Continue reading “Weekly News Summary: February 22”


Armed vigilantes in southern Mexico report killing 1 in clash with band of suspected criminals

youth with handgunThe Washington Post, 2/20/2013

Armed vigilantes in southern Mexico engaged in a shootout 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-defense” 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.

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Vigilantes reportedly release captives in southern Mexico

m16 gun closeupLos Angeles Times, 2/19/2013

Vigilantes who were threatening to subject a group of alleged criminals to a “people’s court” abruptly released their captives Tuesday, avoiding, for now, a showdown with authorities. Saying the government has not been able to protect them from drug traffickers and other violent gangs, villagers in the southern state of Guerrero took up arms this year and formed so-called self-defense patrols.

With homicides, rapes and other crimes spreading in much of central Mexico, so has the phenomenon of armed vigilantes. As of Tuesday, 20 towns in Guerrero along with municipalities in at least four other states reported patrols by armed residents who often wear masks and staff checkpoints. In the town of Ayutla, in the southern mountains of Guerrero, the vigilantes had captured 53 people, “charged” them with various crimes and promised to try them in a people’s court this week. Under pressure from state authorities, last week they released 11 of the people accused of the most serious crimes.

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Unabated Violence Poses Challenge to Mexico’s New Anticrime Program

crime sceneThe New York Times, 2/18/2013

The new Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, campaigned on a promise to reduce the violence spawned by the drug trade and organized crime, and to shift the talk about his nation away from cartels and killings. But even as he rolled out a crime prevention program last week and declared it the government’s new priority, a rash of high-profile mayhem threatened to undercut his message and raise the pressure to more forcefully confront the lawlessness that bedeviled his predecessor.

The southwestern state of Guerrero, long prone to periodic eruptions of violence, has proved a challenge once again. Gang rapes of several women have occurred in and around the faded resort town of Acapulco, including an attack this month on a group from Spain that garnered worldwide headlines, and an ambush killed nine state police officers in a mountainous no-man’s land. Out of frustration that the state was not protecting them, rural towns in Guerrero have taken up arms to police themselves.

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Auto Defensa: Rough Justice in Mexico’s Lawless Mountains

protest -- stroke -- resistanceTime, 2/12/2013

In late January I traveled along winding mountain roads in Guerrero state, Mexico, to witness the opening of a new chapter in the country’s enduring battle against organized crime. This was not, however, a drug eradication mission conducted by the Mexican Army, or an operativo by the Federal Police to nab cartel chiefs. Instead, I was there to document a burgeoning movement of “Auto Defensa,” or autonomous uprisings by campesinos who, pushed to the breaking point by criminal gangs operating in their communities, decided to take back control of their towns and villages.

The event generally credited with sparking this movement occurred on January 5th in Ayutla de los Libres, a town of roughly 30,000, when a local representative, or comesario, was kidnapped for ransom. A group of locals decided to combat the kidnappers. They armed themselves, closed roads into and out of the town, formed patrols and, before long, freed the comesario and took his captors prisoner.

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Mexico Vigilantes Bring ‘Charges’ Against 53

youth with handgunThe AP, 2/1/2013

Vigilantes who have taken up arms against drug cartel violence and common crime in southern Mexico announced Thursday they will bring charges ranging from organized crime to kidnapping and extortion against 50 men and three women who they have been holding prisoner at improvised jails.

Villagers armed with hunting rifles, old pistols and small-bore shotguns set up armed patrols and roadblocks in the township of Ayutla almost one month ago to defend their communities against crime, saying authorities have failed to bring peace and safety to the Pacific coast state of Guerrero. So far, the state government has tolerated but not formally recognized the self-defense squads.

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Mexican Violence Prompts Self-Policing by Civilians

youth with handgunThe New York Times, 1/26/2013

An outbreak of violence in rural southwestern Mexico has led civilians in a string of communities to take up arms and police their own communities, shining a light on the lack of state security as a new administration prepares to take on the country’s violence.

The latest eruption of citizen policing began about three weeks ago in the small, mountainous town of Ayutla de los Libres, in Guerrero State, when residents picked up rifles and machetes and arrested at least three dozen people they said the authorities had failed to apprehend.

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