Mexican Vigilantes Face Off Against Military in Guerrero

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Self-defense groups in Guerrero, Mexico have detained at least 60 soldiers and announced plans to take over a municipal government building as it becomes increasingly clear that authorities’ attempts to co-opt the state’s vigilantes are failing.

Clashes began on August 5, when a military patrol detained members of the local “community police” from the Ayutla municipality, who had a number of weapons stored in the trunk of their vehicle that legally can only be used by security forces.

In retaliation, various allied self-defense groups set up roadblocks, and at one of the blocks one group detained an estimated 60 soldiers, reported CNN Mexico.

After the action failed to secure the release of the arrested vigilantes and the return of the weapons, members of a self-defense group and residents of Ayutla announced they would take over the municipal government building, reported Milenio.

Bruno Placido Valerio, coordinator for one of the most prominent groups, the Union of the People and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG) also took the opportunity to denounce military collusion with criminal elements. Placido told La Jornada that people had witnessed strange men dressed in black in the communities, who he said were members of paramilitary or organized crime groups that worked with the army.

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Until recently, the situation in Guerrero has contrasted with that of neighboring Michoacan, where vigilante groups have been involved in numerous confrontations with the security forces and local authorities. Groups in Guerrero, which have roots pre-dating the current drug war violence, even signed an agreement with the state government to legitimize their organizations. The pact includes clauses banning the vigilantes from carrying weapons that are for the exclusive use of the army and from setting up roadblocks.

This previously collaborative relationship now appears to have collapsed, and it is becoming clear that trust between the self-defense groups and the authorities has broken down. The increasingly combative stance taken by the vigilantes means more clashes are likely, and the situation could well spiral out of control, as it has in Michoacan, where self-defense groups, drug cartels and security forces are currently locked in a chaotic and violent confrontation.

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