New self-defense group forms in south of Mexico

Hundreds of civilians have taken up arms in the mining area of Guerrero in a bid to combat criminal gangs

The inhabitants of 10 towns in the Mexican state of Guerrero have created a new self-defense group in response to the violence and threats they are suffering at the hands of organized criminals. The armed civilians, accompanied by hundreds of locals, marched on Sunday through the streets of Mezcala, the biggest mining area in the region. They also blocked off for an hour a section of the federal freeway that joins the capital of the country with the city of Acapulco.

Civiles armados, en el estado de Guerrero, México.
Civiles armados, en el estado de Guerrero, México.EFE
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The appearance of this group comes in the midst of a situation of violence that is gripping this area of Guerrero, where the criminal gangs Guerreros Unidos and Los Rojos are fighting for control.

The head of the self-defense group said Sunday that they would be manning checkpoints to inspect vehicles and people who travel through the region, which is located 55 kilometers from Iguala, from where 43 student teachers disappeared in 2014.

Threats, executions, kidnapping and extortion have all been on the rise since 2013

According to the newspaper El Sur, the armed civilians are being supported by the local mining companies, whose employees handed out food and water after Sunday’s march and blockade. One of the participants in the protest told the EFE news agency that the criminal gangs take 10% of the annual fee that the mining companies pay to exploit the resources. According to local media reports, threats, executions, kidnapping and extortion have all been on the rise since 2013.

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The new group has also received the support of another auto-defensa group, which was created three weeks ago in the municipality of Heliodoro Castillo, one of the areas with the greatest production of poppies in the whole country. The authorities in Guerrero are yet to make an official statement about the new group.

Other states in Mexico have also seen major movements of armed civilians. The most emblematic of these was the one headed up by surgeon José Manuel Mireles in Michoacán in 2013, when he and other citizens began an armed struggle against the Caballeros Templarios cartel. Mireles, whose story was told in the documentary Cartel Land, was later jailed for his exploits in June 2014. After a legal battle, he was eventually freed from prison on May 11.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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