HomeNewsBriefGrowth Of Mexican Vigilante Groups Causes Increasing Concern
BRIEF

Growth Of Mexican Vigilante Groups Causes Increasing Concern

MEXICO / 4 MAR 2013 BY MIRIAM WELLS EN

Citizens' self-defense groups are now reportedly operating in 13 Mexican states, as fears intensify that they may turn into paramilitary organizations or be co-opted by criminal gangs.

Vigilante groups, whose purported aim is to protect their communities from criminals or guard its natural resources, are now present in 68 Mexican municipalities, according to newspaper Reforma. At least three groups have themselves been accused of crimes as the self-defense movement has intensified, said the newspaper -- two for murders in Guerrero state, where the phenomenon began, and one for taking weapons from police in Michoacan state.

The appearance of a new group with "suspiciously sophisticated weapons" and "specially-designed clothing" has caused concern in the western state of Michoacan, reported the Washington Post. Members of the group, which has set up checkpoints on roads in the town of Tepalcatepec, are equipped with assault rifles and professionally-printed T-shirts labelled "Community Police," says the newspaper -- contrasting this to the historic self-defense groups formed of farmers in "muddy boots" carrying pistols and machetes.

Manuel Olivares Hernández, a representative from the Guerreo Network of Civil Organizations for Human Rights criticized one group in the state for arbitrarily detaining two people who had not done anything wrong, in an interview with newspaper La Jornada March 3. "It seems that they are governing themselves under a paramilitary or judicial style, which is being implemented to commit abuses," he said.

Thousands of people marched in support of self-defense groups over the weekend in Guerrero state, reported the Associated Press.

InSight Crime Analysis

The reports of sophisticated weaponry and uniform are a worrying development in the self-defense movement, suggesting a shift towards a more military style of operation. As the groups have multiplied in recent months, there have been increasing fears that Colombia's history, in which citizen vigilante groups morphed into brutal paramilitary organizations, will repeat itself in Mexico. After 25 years, Colombian society realized there was "no greater threat to a country than civil groups who take up arms with a discourse of self-protection," said a recent article about the Mexican movement in magazine Excelsior.

The head of Mexico's Human Rights Commission, Raul Plascencia, warned last month there was a "very thin line between these self-defense organizations and paramilitary groups." Mexico's constitution "categorically establishes that no one can carry out justice for themselves nor use violence to reclaim their rights," said the Commission in a statement.

However the government, has so far adopted a relatively friendly approach to the groups, making arrangements for the handover of detainees and swearing in around 60 ranchers and farmers in Chiapas state as a "Rural Forces Squad." Some regional politicians and members of Congress have called for the groups to be legally recognized.

Monitoring these groups' tactics as their numbers continue to increase is of crucial importance to this debate, and the future security of Mexican citizens. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

HEROIN / 27 MAY 2016

In testimony before Senate Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere subcommittee, InSight Crime Co-Director Steven Dudley discussed some common myths and the…

MEXICO / 28 SEP 2011

Examples of vigilante groups abound in Mexico, but all have been short-lived, and their emergence appears to have little to…

DRUG POLICY / 13 FEB 2019

The sea cucumber arrived. Then more arrived. Then more. It was a lot, investigators noted—too much for that northwestern corner…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…