Vigilantes On The Rise in Mexico

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The disarray in Mexico coupled with the police’s failure to curb crime, has caused armed vigilante groups to “spread to at least four Mexican States, manning checkpoints, patrolling streets and in one case killing a ‘suspect’ in a shootout.” (IOL News). These vigilantes have posed a challenge to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. “Raul Plascencia Villanueva, head of the National Human Rights Commission, said the vigilante trend must be rejected, warning that there is ‘very fine line between self-defence organizations and paramilitary groups.’” (IOL News). This rapid expansion of these groups began in January, where a group of men wearing masks, “took up machetes and hunting rifles in the rural mountains of the southwestern Guerrero state.” (IOL News).

The rapid spread of these “vigilante-style community self defense groups” has brought about debate in Mexico. Particularly, after the most recent group came about with “sophisticated weapons, printed T-shirts, and clothing that doesn’t reflect the usual mix of participants.”  (Fox News). This group appeared in Tepalcatepec, in the western state of Michoacán. (Fox News). The vigilantes say the reason behind their up rise is due to the fact that police are far too corrupt and have been unwilling or unable to stop drug gangs throughout Mexico.

On Tuesday, Assistant Interior Secretary Eduardo Sanchez said that the government was attempting to negotiate with these vigilante groups. What do you think can be done throughout these negotiations to curb the rise of these groups? Personally, I do not think anything can be done in regards to the vigilantes until the government and law enforcement authorities can get a stranglehold on these drug gangs and restore faith in law enforcement.

The debates regarding this recent problem has consisted of finger pointing at both state governors and federal policy makers. (IOL News). Senator Ernesto Cordero stated, “it is a governability crisis, because it demonstrates the total absence of the police.” (IOL News). Manlio Fabio Beltrones, leader of the Ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, stated “governors should reconsider the way their governments work if they are not capable enough to offer protection, safety and justice to their populations.” (IOL News).

Keeping those comments in mind, please consider the following questions:

(1)  What can be done to ensure that the people of Mexico have protection, safety, and justice as mentioned in the quotes above?

(2)  From an international perspective, should other nations intervene to try and help bring about peace in Mexico and restore order?


Sources: IOL News , Fox News


  1. These vigilantes are taking matters into their own hands. This is not the proper solution to maintain security in Mexico, but what other choice is available? The cartels’ drug gangs run rapid in Mexico, and the police are not policing. I think Peter is right is assessing that nothing can really be done to prevent the rise of vigilantes until there is a hint of stability in Mexico. Senator Cordero raises an interesting point, stating that this surge of vigilante groups is the result of the absence of policing. Some might argue that these vigilantes are policing more effectively than those in uniform. To address Peter’s question, from an international standpoint, I do not think other nations should intervene anymore than they already have. Of course the United States should be involved to aid in preventing the flow of drugs through Mexico into the southwestern U.S., but extra intervention is not needed on account of these vigilante groups. This spread of vigilante groups was inevitable. If I lived in Mexico, fearing the drug cartels every day of my life, it may even be comforting to know that at least some men are uniting to protect me. It is sad that Mexico has had to revert to such primitive means of defense, but without any sufficient law and order, Mexico could feasibly become a ground zero for paramilitary groups.

  2. I think that there should be radical changes in the way that the Mexican government handles their police force and that there should be measures taken to root out corruption and bribery and to increase transparency in the enforcement of the laws. I agree that there is a possibility for faith to be restored in vigilante-style communities if government and law enforcement authorities first get a hold on drug cartels.

    This is an issue that should not be taken lightly by policymakers as the vigilante population has only expanded since their community leader was kidnapped in January. Furthermore, as tensions are on the rise, the self-defense groups have been detaining people in makeshift jails in remote villages in Mexico.

    As far as international intervention to bring about peace in Mexico, I believe that in order to respect the sovereignty of Mexico, international intervention should only be used in collaboration with the Mexican government. Hopefully there will be peace in Mexico before further international intervention is needed.

  3. I find it interesting that the Mexican government is negotiating with these groups. If the government is going to show any signs of stability and legitimacy, and thus curb the violence from the drug lords in the first place, this might not be the best solution. However, as Patrick noted, what other choices are available? I think the Mexican government needs to target the corruption in the police and state security and work from there. As Sophia notes, transparency is integral for the Mexican people to support and believe in their law enforcement system.
    The news programs have been talking about the “hot spots” for college spring break trips and Cancun and Acapulco are still in the top 5, even with all the negative press Mexico has received in the past year. I wonder if an attack on American college tourists, such as the horrific attack on the Spanish tourists last month, would prompt the American government to do more. Mexico is in our backyard and most of our drug imports are from Mexico and South American countries using Mexico as a staging ground. The real question, Peter, is when does Mexico realize they cannot handle the situation and ask for international help?

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