Mexico: campesinos bear arms against narcos

Hundreds of campesinos in municipalities of Mexico’s southern Guerrero state, including Ayutla de los Libres, Tecoanapa, Florencio Villarreal, Cuautepec and San Marcos, have taken up arms to defend themselves from a drug-trafficking gang that has been terrorizing residents and demanding protection payments. Armed with pistols and shotguns, the “Community Police” self-defense patrols have been setting up checkpoints at the entrances to their villages, and in one case secured the release of a Tecoanapa resident who had been kidnapped. A total of some 40 suspected narco-gunmen have been detained by the self-defense patrols, and await trial by community assemblies. Residents claim legitimacy for the system of justice under the principle of “uses and customs,” by which traditional self-government of indigenous territories is permitted in Mexico’s constitution.

Ayutla’s Mayor Severo Castro Godínez says he hopes his town’s 800-strong Community Police force will prove a temporary measure, and emphasizes that he cannot officially support it. Authorities say Guerrero’s Costa Chica region is the turf of a gang known as Los Pelones, local enforceers for the Beltran Leyva Organization. (RPP, Jan. 20; Milenio, Jan. 13; EFE, Jan. 12)