Leaders of self-defense groups in Guerrero, Mexico have denied they are linked to guerrilla organizations, as government intelligence reports fuel fears the vigilante movement could be co-opted by leftist rebels.
According to intelligence agency documents accessed by Mexican newspaper Milenio, several key figures in the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC), a community police organization based in the Pacific coastal state of Guerrero, work with the leftist guerrilla group the Insurgent People’s Revolutionary Army (ERPI).
The document identifies four people — a CRAC legal advisor, a recruiter, an organizer of ten community police groups, and a member responsible for the creation of community police forces in 23 towns — as “promoters” of the ERPI.
The report also claims that armed ERPI cells are being deployed in CRAC strongholds in the state.
According to the report’s assessment, the ERPI’s strategy is to build connections between themselves, the community police and social movements such as radical teacher unions.
Prominent figures in both the CRAC and the Union of Peoples and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG) — a rival self-defense movement now united with the CRAC — immediately denied links to the guerrillas, reported Milenio. UPOEG leader Bruno Placido denounced the report as a “a blatant ploy to justify the eventual arrest of the main leaders of the social movements.”
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One of the main concerns surrounding the boom in self-defense groups in Mexico has been the possibility of these armed organizations being co-opted for political purposes, and this is just the latest evidence to suggest this may be what leftist insurgencies are now doing.
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In recent years, there have been signs that Mexico’s guerrilla groups have been moving away from armed struggle and focusing more on infiltrating and influencing unarmed social movements. Building links with self-defense groups would also prove a smart strategic move along these lines; in the community police they may find an ideal balance, as the groups combine armed muscle with a degree of public legitimacy, and are not widely dismissed as terrorist organizations.
However, it should also be noted that countries throughout the region, including Mexico, have a long and dark history of tarring unruly opposition as armed insurgents in order to discredit them or remove them through legal proceedings or violence. Given recent moves to charge self-defense leaders with terrorism, Mexican government claims linking the groups to insurgencies could also be viewed in this context.