Mexico Govt Absence Opening Way for New Vigilante Groups: CNDH

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Mexico’s human rights ombudsman warned that more vigilante groups, of the type that have clashed with authorities in southwestern states, could emerge in different places because the government is not providing adequate security.

Raul Plascencia, the head of the country’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), said he fears paramilitary-style organizations are forming in the states of Morelos, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz, reported Milenio.

“We have identified a number of municipalities where, unfortunately, there is just no municipal government,” he said. “Where these ‘self-defense’ groups have emerged, the number one complaint is the absence of public security.”

Meanwhile in Guerrero — one of two states where vigilante groups have surged — representatives of the business community said they would close their businesses, refuse to pay taxes, and create their own “self-defense” groups if the government does not answer their calls for more security, reported La Jornada.

Business leaders from groups representing the construction, textile and transport industries, among others, were present at the public pronouncement. To emphasize his point, the head of the local chamber of commerce, Jaime Nava, told 24 Horas that there were an average of six kidnappings a day by criminal organizations, of which 20 percent are killed, while 80 percent are released alive following ransom payments.

Other criminal schemes, according to the business leaders, included collecting “quotas” from taxis, skimming 15 percent from government-funded construction projects, and stealing government subsidies provided to families to help them purchase livestock.   

InSight Crime Analysis

The vigilante question in Mexico has many layers to it, but nearly always starts with the issue of state presence. The calls are legitimate: the government does not have an effective presence in many areas; and with Mexico’s criminal gangs fragmenting, increasing their geographic reach and relying more on local revenue sources, this feeling of vulnerability is spreading.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Still, Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, and Brazil-watchers know well that any short term efforts to gain private protection can come at a huge long term cost. Many of the “self-defense” organizations in those countries have become worse than the groups they were ostensibly fighting. The United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), were born, in part, to protect ranchers and business from guerrilla kidnapping, and ended up becoming the country’s most powerful drug trafficking organization.

This may already be happening in Mexico. In addition to accusations that many of these groups are working for drug trafficking organizations, vigilante groups took several soldiers hostage in Guerrero recently, while authorities this week arrested one “self-defense” leader who was pilfering royalties from the community coffers. 

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