The government of Guerrero, Mexico, has signed an agreement with local self-defense forces to begin the process of legalizing these groups, in an attempt to address fears over growing vigilantism in the region.
Governor Angel Aguirre Rivero and the leader of vigilante umbrella group the Union of People and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG), Bruno Placido Valerio, agreed to start the process of legal recognition and regulation of self-defense groups through a “Community Security System,” reported El Universal.
The agreement aims to legally define the self-defense groups’ responsibilities, obligations and powers, the governor said. It also sets out plans for the groups to receive training from the Mexican Army in human rights and security strategies.
Aguirre also raised the possibility of paying members, although Placido expressed concern that this could see the groups co-opted by the state, as they would no longer answer primarily to their communities.
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While vigilante groups have emerged in a number of Mexico’s conflict hotspots, much of the recent activity is concentrated in Guerrero.
The UPOEG has roots going back to a self-defense movement created in the 1990s (although this relationship is now strained), strong ties to indigenous communities, and has previously cooperated with the state.
This stands in stark contrast to some other regions, especially in neighboring Michoacan, where vigilante groups have come into conflict with the security forces, and both sides have accused the other of working with drug cartels.
Plans to legalize the Guerrero groups may help reduce the threat of an escalation in vigilante violence. However, there is still a serious danger of corruption — either from criminal groups, or from cooperation with the security forces, who themselves suffer high levels of corruption and criminal infiltration.