A vigilante militia has become involved in a hostage standoff with an organized crime network in southwest Mexico, as the competition for booming criminal profits in a fragmented underworld continues to sew violence and insecurity in the state of Guerrero.
Vigilantes from the Guerrero municipality of San Miguel Totolapan seized over 20 hostages earlier in the week after the kidnapping of local engineer Isauro de Paz Duque. Among the hostages was the mother of the head of the criminal network that seized de Paz, the Tequileros, which locals accuse of mass kidnappings, extortion and murder.
On December 14, the vigilantes released two videos, in which first de Paz's wife and then the mother of Tequileros chief Raybel Jacobo de Almonte appeared calling for the release of de Paz in exchange for de Almonte's mother life, reported the BBC.
The swap stook place the following day, but the vigilantes continue to hold between 18 and 20 hostages they accuse of working for the Tequileros, despite the local authorities' offer to take them into custody and investigate their alleged criminal ties, reported Proceso.
InSight Crime Analysis
The standoff between the vigilantes and the Tequileros is the latest manifestation of the chaos, violence and breakdown in authority that has wracked Guerrero as hegemonic criminal organizations dissolve but criminal economies continue to thrive.
Once the terrain of major drug cartels, most prominently the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), Guerrero's underworld is now a battleground for their splinter groups, which terrorize the local population and fight each other to control drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping.
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Although some reports identify the Tequileros as one of several splinter organizations formed in the wake of the dismantling of the Familia Michoacana, other reports suggest it is an offshoot of the Guerreros Unidos network -- itself formerly a part of the BLO.
Despite numerous security plans, the authorities have proven incapable of bringing security to the region, leading to vigilantes stepping into the vacuum. While the San Miguel Totolapan militia appears to be a recent, ad hoc response to the security crisis, other such groups have long been part of this volatile mix and in some cases have even turned on each other.
There is no sign of the violence abating, and recent trends in the drug market may even worsen the situation; authorities are warning that an ongoing heroin boom in the United States could be fueling the violence as these networks dispute control of the Guerrero poppy crops that supply this thriving market.