Self-defense groups in Guerrero, Mexico have freed detained soldiers and entered into talks with the state government in an attempt to diffuse the crisis that threatened to derail efforts to legalize the organizations within the state.
Earlier in the week, vigilante groups set up roadblocks, detained between 60 and 100 soldiers, and threatened to take over government buildings after members were arrested for carrying illegal weapons.
The self-defense groups freed the soldiers and lifted the roadblocks after the government agreed to talks, which began on August 8 between the Guerrero Governor Angel Aguirre, officials from the Interior Ministry (known by its Spanish acronym SEGOB), and members of the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities of Guerrero (CRAC-G), reported Animal Politico.
Following the first round of talks, the commissioner for Dialogue with the Indigenous People of Mexico, Jaime Martinez Veloz, said the parties had discussed issues including what weapons self-defense groups could carry, how they would be accredited, where they would carry out operations, and how they would coordinate with the security forces, reported Informador.
Martinez estimated there were between 1,500 and 2,000 members of the self-defense groups that the government is trying to legitimize.
Self-defense groups are most prominent in the states of Guerrero and Michoacan. They argue they have to arm themselves for protection from criminal incursions, since the government’s security forces have failed in this respect.
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Ever since the surge of self-defense groups in Guerrero began earlier this year, Governor Aguirre has looked to legalize the groups, whose origins predate the current violence and who often have strong ties to indigenous communities.
This culminated in a pact signed in April between self-defense group leaders and the governor, which was designed to resolve the issues currently under discussion — including which weapons the groups can use. The debate is not symbolic. Criminal organizations carry high-powered weapons.
With the events of this week, it looked like that agreement had broken down, creating the potential for the sort of confrontations between the state and vigilante groups seen in neighboring Michoacan state.
However, it now appears both sides have not given up on establishing a cooperative model between self-defense groups and the authorities, although there remain many serious obstacles ahead if this cooperation is to effectively tackle the region’s security crisis.
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