Vigilantes Detain University Students in Mexico’s Guerrero State

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A newly formed community police group in Guerrero, Mexico has blocked a main highway, detaining 30 university students and 40 tourist buses, as they demand heightened security measures.

Residents of Tecpan de Galeana, a town on the Acapulco – Zihuatanejo route of the state’s southern Pacific Coast, formed a community police unit and set up six blockades along the highway on June 20. The armed group demanded government security assistance in the face of alleged threats from the Knights Templar criminal group, reported El Universal.

Among those detained was a truck containing 30 students from Mexico City’s Pedregal University, which was stopped by an armed group as they headed to Zihuatanejo on vacation, reported Milenio. According to the university’s president, the Guerrero government has done nothing to intervene and the students have no water or food. Forty tourist buses were also trapped along the route.

In neighboring Michoacan state, vigilantes stormed municipal government offices in Buenavista Tomatlan on June 19. Officials reported a day later that the army had dismantled the group and initiated a dialogue with them.

InSight Crime Analysis

Vigilante groups have continued to spring up in both Guerrero and Michoacan during 2013, but have been received quite differently by each state government. In Guerrero, the government has moved to legalize these groups, and community police there have shown a tendency to cooperate with state authorities, handing over captives in February to be processed by state officials.

In Michoacan, on the other hand, tension has continued to exist between government security forces and vigilante groups. Vigilantes were arrested in March for alleged connections to the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG) drug gang, and have taken police and military personnel hostage on more than one occasion.

Given the context of state-vigilante cooperation in Guerrero, the armed protests are surprising. It is possible that citizen security concerns simply reached a tipping point and that the blockades and detentions are a means of getting attention. Guerrero was listed among the five most violent states in Mexico in the first four months of 2013. Governor Angel Aguirre Rivero has called for greater assistance from federal forces and promised a security boost along the Michoacan border in May, blaming his state’s violence on spillover from crackdowns in the Michoacan, but Guerrero is home to many criminal organizations of its own.

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