1500 armed men take over town in Guerrero

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The vigilante group decided to take the village of Tierra Colorada, Guerrero (between Chilpancingo and Acapulco) after the body of the commander of another community police force was found there. The vigilantes are holding the local chief of police and eight state policemen hostage. Bruno Plácido Valerio, director of the Community Police of the Organized Towns Union of Guerrero (UPOEG), has said that they believe these members of the police force were involved in the murder of their 30 year-old comrade. The State Attorney General’s (PGJE) office has stated that they will conduct a full investigation into the homicide.

Anti-drug war activist and poet Javier Sicilia (whose son was kidnapped and murdered in 2011) recently declared his support for the vigilante groups forming across the country: “Far from condemning these groups, we must work with them because they are trying to defend [our social fabric]…Abandoning them would allow criminals and the negligence of the state to destroy it…The state wants to maintain a monopoly on violence, but it isn’t working, and that has left us citizens defenseless.”

The “self-defense” groups, as they have been dubbed in the Mexican press, are now active in 13 states according to Just the Facts, a security blog covering Latin America and the Caribbean. “While supporters of the groups say they are providing much-needed security, there are growing concerns they may turn into paramilitary groups or become involved with criminal groups. Raúl Plascencia, head of Mexicos Human Rights Commission, has warned, ‘there is a very thin line between these self-defense organizations and paramilitary groups.’”

Below is a map of the states and towns where there are active vigilante groups (from Animal Político):

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To see powerful images of the vigilante groups, check out this slideshow from Cuartoscuro.

Sources:

Animal Político, Mil 500 civiles armados toman un pueblo en Guerrero (Mar 27), Sicilia llama a trabajar junto a grupos de autodefensa (Mar 19)