A dissident faction of a vigilante group in Mexico’s Guerrero state has allegedly attacked other community police, in a sign this group, like their Michoacan neighbors, is experiencing major cracks in its leadership.
According to La Cronica de Hoy, a group of civilians headed by former leaders of the community police network known as the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC) assaulted and fired on other vigilantes and their detainees at a courthouse in the municipality of San Luis Acatlan on March 18. The attack, in which one person was seriously injured, required the intervention of the Mexican army.
Milenio reports that the assault on the courthouse involved 80 people who were attempting to rescue two men who were taken captive by vigilantes led by CRAC coordinator Eliseo Villar Castillo. The men were detained for their alleged involvement in an attack on Villar Castillo while he was driving toward a nearby municipality on March 16.
Meanwhile, Excelsior reported that up to 300 unarmed people approached the courthouse and were received with gunfire from 30 community police led by Villar Castillo’s faction.
The situation follows the emergence of an apparent division within the group, with dissident leaders forming a small regional assembly that accuses Villar Castillo and several others of defrauding the group of some $55,000.
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This case is further cause for concern as vigilante groups in the neighboring state of Michoacan also appear to be fragmenting. In both cases, these divisions have occurred amid accusations of irregular activity by the groups’ leaders.
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In Michoacan, where the militia groups gained semi-legal recognition in January, these divisions have been quite serious. The attack in Guerrero comes on the heels of the arrest and incarceration of Michoacan vigilante leader Hipolito Mora on murder charges, while rival vigilante leaders in the state have hurled accusations amongst themselves of involvement with the Knights Templar criminal organization. Mora now claims he was betrayed in this ongoing dispute.
The recent attack is one indication the vigilante movement in Guerrero is seeing a similar process of violent fragmentation. The CRAC, which formed nearly two decades ago, has also faced recent pressure from the Mexican government over fears it may be spiraling out of control.
Recent events in Michoacan have made it clear that applying a legal framework to the self-defense initiative does not necessarily solve any problems. The question now is how the government will move forward in both states to prevent these movements from breaking out into criminal activity and taking the law into their own hands.