Monday, November 2, 2009

Vigilantes in Mexico

Sylvia Longmire has a report that asks if recent reports of vigilantes in Mexico could morph into a constellation of armed groups similar to what we see in Colombia. Mexico is a long way from Colombia, the groups in Mexico seem to be small and isolated, and it remains to be seen if the recent reports represent the birth of a persistent problem or more of a media phenomenon (vigilante justice makes a great new angle for the same old Mexican crime story). Nonetheless, something to keep an eye on.


jd said...

Once again, I disagree strongly with the Mexico-Colombia analogy. There have been "social cleansing" or vigilante groups in a number of countries in Latin America. The reason everyone leaps to compare things to Colombia is because that's the place in Latin America where things got completely out of hand. But the reason that it went so far (as well as the cause of the parapolitica scandal that is alluded to in the piece) is intimately and inextricably related to patterns of land ownership, land conflict, and elite territorial control, i.e., POLITICAL issues, in a way that is vastly different than in Mexico. Obviously the money that came from the drug trade deepened and altered the Colombian conflict, but it's just not helpful to use a Colombia analogy every time one wishes to stare gravely into Mexico's future. Actually, it would be better to look to Mexico's neighbors in Central America, where "social cleansing" has been common for many years, and Brazil, which has militia-style groups in a number of cities, most famously Rio. There are notable differences, especially the greater power of the Mexican "cartels" compared to the more localized Brazilian gangs and turf-driven Maras, but those examples are still way better than the AUC. Also, there isn't much doubt that the police play a major role in such activities in all those countries.

pc said...

Yeah I remain in agreement with you on Colombia and Mexico. The differences are far more signicant than the similarities. The Rio-Mexico comparison is one that doesn't get nearly enough attention, especially when talking Juárez, Tijuana, and the other border towns. I think one thing people aren't talking about is how much of the new faces in Mexico's crime scene (La Linea, Teo García, even La Familia to a certain extent, or los de la casas del cierro here in Torreón) are groups tied to one city or region who don't move around the country as much as you imagine the stereoptypical Mexican or Colombian kingpins typically doing. Not all of them, of course, are like that, but there's definitely more of that now than five years ago. That definitely seems closer to my (not too deep, admittedly) understanding of the gangs that operate in Rio than the AUC, or any other prominent armed group in Colombia.