“The gunmen nabbed watermelon farmer Jesus Manuel Guerrero as he drove from his ranch to buy supplies and held him for five painful days in the trunk of a car,” nbcnews.com reports. “When family members finally paid a $120,000 ransom and they released him, he was urinating blood. He’s just one of hundreds of victims of a wave of kidnapping that’s swept this once peaceful farming town, about 130 miles south of Texas. But almost three years after his brutal abduction, Guerrero, who is now the mayor, says his town has become safer, the kidnappers scared to enter.” And why is that, pray tell? “This change is not due to the police, he says, but . . .
to a clandestine vigilante group known as the Pedro Mendez Column, named after a local general who fought the French in the 19th century.
The column hands out leaflets declaring it operates night patrols to defend the community from the feared Zetas cartel, which is behind most of the kidnapping. The vigilantes have also claimed responsibility for several murders of alleged Zeta members, including two men shot dead in January.
“The column only kills kidnappers and drug traffickers. They don’t allow extortion or threaten honest people,” Guerrero told GlobalPost, speaking in his town hall, which is decorated with paintings of Mexico’s independence and revolutionary heroes. “It is much safer with them.”
Even so, NBC wants its readers to know that Mexicans defending their lives against cartel kidnappings, killings, rape, torture, extortion and political corruption could increase violence.
But human rights groups warn that vigilantes may only add to Mexico’s cycle of violence — a severe problem in border states like Tamaulipas, which suffers shoot-outs that have caused temporary shutdowns of crossings into Texas . . .
Some of those vigilantes were deputized as rural state police in May, but others have carried on operating outside the law. Last month, police and soldiers arrested Michoacan vigilante leader Jose Mireles and more than 70 of his supporters for carrying illegal guns.
Gun permits are difficult to get in Mexico, but the country is awash in illegal arms, many smuggled in from the US. The vigilantes favor the same Kalashnikovs and AR-15 rifles as the cartels, which sell on the black market here for several thousand dollars apiece.
“Difficult to get”? That’s like saying it’s difficult for me to get a date with Erin Heatherton. Interestingly, the report [inadvertently] makes the case that gun smuggling to Mexico is helping people defend their lives against cartel violence – a point we’ve been making for years.
As for the Mexican government’s views on the “vigilantes,” what do you expect? The cartels own the Mexican government and police and not a small part of the military. They recently arrested the most prominent auto-defensa leader: Dr. Mireles. So, they pay lip service to self-defense and then let/help the cartels counter-attack, with predictably bloody results.
Federal prosecutors have accused some vigilantes across Mexico of being backed by drug cartels to fight rival gangs.
The Pedro Mendez may be receiving weapons to fight the Zetas from that gang’s enemies in the Gulf Cartel, Guerrero says. But the mayor insists the vigilantes are authentic in defending their community.
While Guerrero says the vigilantes have reduced crime, he says he is not himself a militia member.
The government of President Enrique Peña Nieto has led a shifting and seemingly confused policy on Mexico’s vigilante movement. At times it has ignored them, at others attacked them, and sometimes actively worked with them.
The administration is currently waging an offensive by soldiers and federal police in Tamaulipas to quell cartel violence plaguing the state. In the last two months, troops have arrested ranking gangsters from both the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.
“We are working in a good coordinated way and with good results to win back the tranquility of Tamaulipas,” Mexico’s Interior Secretary Miguel Osorio Chong told the government’s news agency. “All the criminals who have hurt the Mexicans’ tranquility will have to fall.”
See? Now that’s funny. What’s not funny: NBC felt obliged to end their report with this quote:
“I think the self-defense groups [vigilantes] are dangerous,” said Raul Villarreal, a furniture store owner in Victoria who marched against crime. “A shoemaker makes shoes. A businessman does business. You need trained police officers to fight crime, not just anybody with a gun.”
Bullshit, and NBC knows it. The question is, how much support is the U.S. government giving to Mexican government forces and the cartels to maintain the status quo? Fast and Furious III? [h/t mister3d]