Last week in a discussion on gun control on Native America Calling I was asked whether or not I thought a community could actually defend itself against attack in this day and age. I answered that we could do it with semi-automatic weapons, we could do it with bolt action rifles, and we could do it with sticks if he had to. It depends on the will of your warriors and the community. Well, these people in Mexico are doing it with machetes and ancient bolt action rifles. Guess I wasn’t too far off. See also El Enemigo Común’s article on self defense in Cherán, Michoacán.
In Mexico, self-defense squads battle violence
AYUTLA, Mexico (AP) — The young man at the roadside checkpoint wept softly behind the red bandanna that masked his face. At his side was a relic revolver, and his feet were shod in the muddy, broken boots of a farmer.
Haltingly, he told how his cousin’s body was found in a mass grave with about 40 other victims of a drug gang. Apparently, the cousin had caught a ride with an off-duty soldier and when gunmen stopped the vehicle, they killed everyone on the car.
“There isn’t one of us who hasn’t felt the pain … of seeing them take a family member and not being able to ever get them back,” said the young civilian self-defense patrol member, who identified himself as “just another representative of the people of the mountain.”
Now he has joined hundreds of other men in the southern Mexico state of Guerrero who have taken up arms to defend their villages against drug gangs, a vigilante movement born of frustration at extortion, killings and kidnappings that local police are unable, or unwilling, to stop.
Vigilantes patrol a dozen or more towns in rural Mexico, the unauthorized but often tolerated edge of a growing movement toward armed citizen self-defense squads across the country.
“The situation Mexico is experiencing, the crime, is what has given the communities the legitimacy to say, ‘We will assume the tasks that the government has not been able to fulfill,'” said rights activist Roman Hernandez, whose group Tlachinollan has worked with the community forces.
The young man and his masked cohorts stop cars at a checkpoint along the two-lane highway that runs past mango and palm trees to Ayutla, a dusty, sun-struck town of concrete homes with red-tile roofs. Pigs, chickens and skinny dogs root in the dirt while the mountains of the Pacific Coast range loom above.