Ordinary Mexicans Fight Drug Cartels by Seizing Town

1,500 ordinary Mexicans fed up with the local government’s inaction in dealing with the drug cartels terrorizing the country have taken the law into their own hands, controlling the town of Tierra Colorado. The vigilante force was organized after the murder of their “commander,” 28-year-old Quinones Carbajal. The vigilantes, who refer to themselves as “community police,” feel that Carbajal was killed with the collusion of local police and organized crime.

The “community police” arrested 12 officers and the town's former director of public security, who were transferred to state prosecutors. They have also set up checkpoints on the main road, which connects Mexico City to Acapulco, as well as instituted searches of people’s homes for hidden drugs. Their spokesman, Bruno Placido Valerio, said: “We have besieged the municipality, because here criminals operate with impunity in broad daylight, in view of municipal authorities. We have detained the director of public security because he is involved with criminals and he knows who killed our commander.”

The vigilantes are part of a burgeoning movement toward taking control of their own communities by the residents of southern and western Mexico, who have been decimated by the wars between the rampaging drug cartels. The regional umbrella group Union of Peoples and Organizations of Guerrero State, which includes the towns of Tierra Colorado, Ayutla de los Libres, Teconoapa and San Marcos, is the nominal leader of the movement. Last year Guerrero State, one of the poorest areas of Mexico, had Mexico's highest murder rate. The movement made arrests and imposed curfews in Ayutla de los Libres and Teconoap in January.

One member of the group taking over Tierra Colorado said of the drug cartels, “They kill, extort, rape. You do know if they are drugs dealers, thugs, who want to grab everything. We want to return peace and tranquility to the entire population. Only the people can restore order.”


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