A meeting between self-defense forces in Mexico’s southwest state of Guerrero ended in violence that left 16 dead, a troubling sign these groups may descend into the sort of bloody rivalries now seen among vigilantes in neighboring Michoacan.
On June 6, two self-defense groups belonging to the United Front for Security and Development in Guerrero State (FUSDEG) met in the rural outskirts of Acapulco in order for the two groups to agree on a non-aggression pact following a confrontation in March that left 7 dead, reported El Universal. However, the talks broke down into violence that left 16 dead and more injured.
Guerrero’s Attorney General’s Office stated the two groups were engaged in territorial disputes, which began after one of the groups broke off from the FUSDEG, reported Proceso.
One local community leader told El Universal violent conflicts have taken place since the FUSDEG broke away from another coalition of vigilante forces, the Union of Towns and Organizations of Guerrero (UPOEG).
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While southwest Mexico has become accustomed to outbreaks of violence linked to self-defense groups, such violent rivalries and high death tolls are more typically associated with vigilante movements in the neighboring state of Michoacan.
In Michoacan, suspicions are widespread that criminal elements have infiltrated the self-defense units that have sprung up over the last two years and some factions are even believed to operate as criminal organizations themselves. Others have been locked into deadly rivalries and power struggles, which have continued despite government attempts to bring vigilante forces into the legal fold.
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In contrast, self-defense networks in Guerrero date back to the 1990s, and are characterized by their strong roots in indigenous customs. Vigilante forces such as the UPOEG have also shown their willingness to work with state security forces.
However, previous episodes of violence between dissident factions of self-defense groups in Guerrero have raised concerns these groups may be on course to experience internal conflicts similar to those that have plagued their counterparts in Michoacan. Reports of community police forces linked to left-wing guerrillas groups in Guerrero has also created doubt about their credibility as a force for public security.