Is the price of freedom and safety—Vigilantes?

Exact numbers of Mexican nationals killed in the fighting among rival drug cartels, the police, and government soldiers since the beginning of that nation’s War on Drugs are hard to come know for certain. By the end of Felipe Calderon’s administration (2006–2012), the official death toll of the Mexican Drug War was at least 60,000, although unconfirmed accounts set the homicide rate above 100,000 victims, given the large number of people who have disappeared. Besides the numerous causalities on the sides of the main combatants, the drug cartels and the Mexican police/soldiers, many thousands of innocent civilians, everyday people, have been killed. The violence and carnage witnessed by Mexicans and the world at large is on a scale which dwarfs the battles between Al Capone’s organization in Chicago and his criminal competitors and federal agents/local police during the period of US Prohibition. It certainly rivals the bloodshed experienced in Colombia during its drug wars of the 1980s and 1990s; it rivals smaller scale conflicts which have sprung up around the world during civil wars in several developing and Third World countries.

With local police outgunned and/or compromised by drug cartels and the heavy-handed tactics of the military units sent in to restore order(not to mention the defection of some of them to the cartel or the creation of new cartels{i.e. Los Zetas}, ordinary citizens have gone back in time to a particular institution of the American West—vigilantes. These are members of a community who as self-appointed individuals and group undertake law enforcement without legal authority. They usually take the place of sworn law enforcement when there is none or it is corrupt and/or intimidated. While such groups have existed throughout the world and throughout history under various guises(and continue to exist to this day around the world), it is most often a concept associated with the opening of the American West.

In present-day Mexico, the groups of vigilantes are not limited to a single region or state. The blog site, Just the Facts, on March 13, 2013 brought together an analysis of the reach of vigilantism across the entire country. Al Jazeera America recently aired a segment about an unique vigilante group in the province of Guerrero—an all-female group. One would hope that these women, the modern-day Mexican echo of the classic Greek play, Lysistrata, will be enough to end the bloody conflict ripping at the heart of our neighbor to the south. The unfortunate fact is they probably will not. It is more likely that Mexico, like Colombia before it, can look forward with sadness to many more years of violence and death.

By Being Latino Contributor, Jeffery Cassity Jeffery Cassity writes weekly for the Being Latino! website and writes regularly for the Sacramento Press website. His articles have also appeared previously in the El Conquistador newspaper(Milwaukee, Wisconsin), the Kenosha(WI) News and the Sacramento(CA) News & Review. Jeff also has written a number of unproduced(so far) feature movie and TV pilots which he hopes to turn into a late in life career in Hollywood, Mexico City, Beijing and/or Dublin. Follow him on Twitter @jcassity05. Also read his blog containing all his written articles I am Puddin’.

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