Ten towns have decided to take up arms to defend themselves against a territorial dispute between criminal groups.
Mexican towns in the state of Guerrero are fighting back against organized crime with an armed, community police force after growing tired of appealing to the Mexican state for protection.
Almost 2,000 people from 10 towns in the municipal regions of Eduardo Neri and Tepecoacuilco formed local self-defense groups to protect themselves from the rising levels of violence and insecurity, reported local media.
The towns are located in the middle of a turf war between organized criminal groups Guerreros Unidos and Los Rojos, who are battling for control of the lucrative region. The area is home to several mines, including the Los Filos mine, owned by Canadian company Goldcorp.
“People are afraid that innocent lives could be lost in the shootouts,” said Leonardo Avalos Ferrer, leader of the self-defense groups.
“We believe it is necessary. We are not doing this because we want to. We can’t continue to let in people who steal cars, extort us and hurt people who are not to blame,” he told El Sur.
To mark the announcement, supporters and members of the newly-formed groups marched Sunday down the Mexico-Acapulco federal highway. The protesters wore white T-shirts with the label “Community Police,” the national coat of arms and the name of the community they belonged to.
Members of the community police force in the neighboring Heliodoro Castillo municipal, as well as workers from the mine, supported the march. No state or federal authority agreed to meet with the protesters.
“We don’t want to keep asking for more security. It’s tiring to keep asking and I don’t think there will be a response. It’s been like this for many years and we don’t think going to authorities will change anything,” said Avalos Ferrer.
The armed community groups announced that starting Sunday they will install roadblocks at the entrance of Mezcala, the entrance point to Carrizalillo, where many of the mines are located.
“We think this is the best way for the government to see that Mezcala and its neighboring communities want peace,” Avalos Ferrer said.
The state of Guerrero is one of the most dangerous in Mexico. Just recently, 100 presumed members of a drug cartel assaulted seven journalists covering a story on drug-related crime.