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Sick and Tired Residents in Southern Mexico Defend Themselves

On the main road into the Mexican town of Ayutla, about 75 miles southeast of Acapulco, about a dozen men cradling shotguns and rusted machetes stand guard on a street corner. Their faces are covered in black ski masks.

The men are part of a network of self-defense brigades, formed in the southern state of Guerrero to combat the drug traffickers and organized crime gangs that terrorize residents. The brigades have set up roadblocks, arrested suspects and are set on running the criminals out of town.....

A man who identifies himself as a lower commander in Ayutla's self-defense brigade says residents had no choice but to take up arms....

The 66-year-old cattle farmer and great-grandfather says it started at the beginning of the year. His cattlemen association was told each member had to pay 500 pesos — about $40 — to a local gang, or else.

"Everyone did as they were told," he says. "Everyone paid it."
But he says people started talking about fighting back. That's when the kidnappings started. He says the gangs snatched several heads of communities in the middle of the night. The townspeople grabbed their rifles and freed the victims. Then they started stopping cars coming in and out of town, checking IDs against lists of names of so-called "bad guys."

Authorities, while expressing sympathy, point out that the defenders are breaking the law and must stop it. Mexico, quite ironically given the cartels' easy access to guns, has much stricter gun laws than the U.S. It is well nigh impossible for the average citizen to legally obtain anything but small caliber non semiautomatic firearms. But the defenders are not stopping, quite the reverse, as other communities are adopting similar methods because, as is increasingly the case in many of our own (non 1%) neighborhoods here in the U.S., local police are incapable or unwilling either to serve or protect.

I recently posted a diary Have Gun, Will Carry With Great Reluctance in which accounts where firearms were successfully used to prevent criminal attacks upon myself and other family members. Commenters shared others.

At the heart of my argument is the recognition that not all of us live in safe neighborhoods and as economic desperation persists, neighborhoods that were formerly safe are much less so now. I cited an ongoing gang war in Oakland, CA whose numerous, often youthful victims, continue to fall largely unnoticed by the national media and where the city’s rather notorious police department neither serves nor protects particularly in poorer neighborhoods.

Since then my daughter’s home, in one of the traditionally safer Oakland neighborhoods was burglarized while her family slept. Fortunately, the burglars only got into the garage, took tools and the like and left before the police, summoned by a neighbor during the event, could get to the house. In the very wealthy town of Piedmont, a bastion of the privileged surrounded by the city of Oakland, there were recently two home invasions by a gang of armed thieves.

Here in the U.S. the concentration of wealth and income in fewer hands, the cutting of social services such as schools and police, the attacks on an already inadequate social safety net are moving our country in the wrong direction so that we are becoming ever more to resemble the Mexicos of the world.

Controlling wealth distribution and even how that wealth is produced along with improved health, safety, educational and other social services as well as decriminalizing drugs would go further in reducing violent crime and certainly save more lives in the U.S.  than  would imposing too strict gun controls on the law abiding as has been done in Mexico.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    The frog jumped/ into the old pond/ plop! (Basho)

    by Wolf10 on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 12:24:54 PM PST

  •  No. (3+ / 0-)
    Mexico, quite ironically given the cartels' easy access to guns, has much stricter gun laws than the U.S.
    There are more than 50,000 victims of the drug war in Mexico. The assertion that somehow having even more guns would have prevented these murders is stunningly naive. And a huge misunderstanding of the complexity of the problem.

    What's needed in Mexico imho is disarmament.  

    •  The average citizens are effectively disarmed (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annecros, RonV, Utahrd, theboz

      in Mexico unless they choose to break the law. The cartels have all the weapons they need. Disarm them first. Also, decriminalizing marijuana in several of our own states has been estimated to have cost the cartels in excess of a billion dollars. As for the problems of gun violence as they affect the law abiding poor and more recently the middle class appears to have escaped your attention.

      The frog jumped/ into the old pond/ plop! (Basho)

      by Wolf10 on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 01:00:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  And who will perform this disarmament? A (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annecros, RonV, Utahrd

      government rife with corruption and largely committed to defending interests of the 1%?

      The frog jumped/ into the old pond/ plop! (Basho)

      by Wolf10 on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 01:20:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't see this as a choice of either/or. Ending (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wolf10

    the whole Drug War thing, and getting rid of untold millions of firearms are both very necessary steps in helping to produce a less violent society. I would, however, agree that both steps really need to happen simultaneously.

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 01:05:00 PM PST

  •  Someone needs to look at (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wolf10, Andrew F Cockburn, YucatanMan

    where the cartels get all the weapons they have.I suggest they start here in the U.S.

    •  Estimates run as high as 90% but that is in (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Andrew F Cockburn

      dispute. I agree that there are way too many guns in the wrong hands and folks like me would be much more likely to unburden ourselves of our firearms if this were not the case.

      The frog jumped/ into the old pond/ plop! (Basho)

      by Wolf10 on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 01:13:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The cartel enforcers are largely ex-military. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wolf10, Over the Edge, slothlax

    In the case of the Zetas, they are ex-special forces. They have military equipment like assault rifles, armored vehicles, recoiless rifles, and grenade launchers. These poor people would have no more chance against a squad like that than if they were armed with squirt guns.

    They can run the punks and freelance bandits out of town, but if the big boys come in it will be a bloodbath.

    •  Even so I admire their courage in attempting (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Andrew F Cockburn, annecros

      to bring law and order to their communities. The police and the army are tragically useless to these folks and all these authorities want to do is disarm the innocent.

      One thing that makes the authorities distrustful of these citizens is the history of revolutionary fervor that runs deep in this area.

      The frog jumped/ into the old pond/ plop! (Basho)

      by Wolf10 on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 01:45:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Take it from me. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wolf10, YucatanMan

    I used to live in Colombia. Paramilitarism doesn't work.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 02:24:52 PM PST

    •  To characterize these folks as paramilitary (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annecros, Jon Says, Utahrd

      in the sense that we typically use the term doesn't really do these folks justice.

      What I wonder is just what people in their position, or mine for that matter, are supposed to do in the face of the immediate threats as described in this and my previous diary?

      I understand someone like Senator Feinstein's anti-gun reaction to the horrific experience of having two friends and colleagues gunned down by a right wing, gay hating asshole. But Feinstein lives in the protective bubble of the 1%. Both her stance on guns and on many of her public policy positions reflect this.

      While many mostly white, mostly well off Americans continue for the time being to enjoy living in relative safety, the underclasses and a growing number of the previously, middle and working classes do not. I do not believe that gun ownership is the best answer to the problem of inadequate public safety but neither, under current circumstances, is unilateral disarmament.

      As with the Giffords, neither do I have much problem with the restrictions on gun ownership that are currently under consideration.

      The frog jumped/ into the old pond/ plop! (Basho)

      by Wolf10 on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 03:11:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  But that's how it starts. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dream weaver

        Some local people get together with shotguns.  They realize they're untrained and outgunned.  Someone, say a local bigwig, offers to train them and give them better guns.  And so it goes.  I completely understand, and in isolation I can even support, what these people are doing.  But it doesn't lead anywhere good.

        You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

        by Rich in PA on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 06:03:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  "Doesn't lead anywhere good" is rather sweeping. (0+ / 0-)

          Do you mean to imply that violence or threat of same is never justified nor that it can lead to a better situation?

          The frog jumped/ into the old pond/ plop! (Basho)

          by Wolf10 on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 02:26:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I agree. (0+ / 0-)

      Paras aren't the answer.

  •  Well let's see (0+ / 0-)

    The Mexican drug cartels are armed to the teeth with military grade weapons, up to and including grenades.

    They regularly fight other equally well armed drug cartels.

    I just don't see them feeling all that threatened by a few armed civilians.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 07:30:34 PM PST

    •  Law abiding citizens should just disarm and (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Utahrd

      roll over?

      The frog jumped/ into the old pond/ plop! (Basho)

      by Wolf10 on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 08:37:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't see it making much difference either way (0+ / 0-)

        And since they're breaking the law we can't even really describe them as "law abiding".

        If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

        by Major Kong on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 08:54:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I was a bit young then (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wolf10

        Didn't we have much better, newer and more powerful weapons than the Viet Cong?

        •  I thought we lost in Vietnam (0+ / 0-)

          because we were stabbed in the back by the hippies and Jane Fonda?

          I'm trying to figure out at what point the meme switched to "The brave Wolverines!, oops I mean Viet Cong, fought off the invaders with their privately held small arms".

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 07:36:13 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Good for them (0+ / 0-)

    But I've lived in cities for my whole life.  I even served a year in Iraq.  Over all those years, I was punched in the face one time walking to school by two other boys.  That's it.  There has never been a situation I've been in or heard about second hand where having a gun would have been helpful.  Iraq is an exception only because there was an actual threat that brandishing firearms mitigated, but I never had to shoot any of my weapons and only raised my rifle on a handful of occasions.  So I don't go for the whole "Oh, the world is so dangerous" talk.  I'm not discounting your stories, I'd just rather use study and statistics to look at something like this rather than anecdotal evidence, because my anecdotal evidence it the exact opposite of the picture you portray.

    There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

    by slothlax on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 09:14:55 PM PST

    •  Unfortunately or not individuals live in an (0+ / 0-)

      anecdotal world. Statistics are good for guestimating in service of the common good but there are exceptions to all  general rules.

      The frog jumped/ into the old pond/ plop! (Basho)

      by Wolf10 on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 02:18:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not sure how anyone's going to get any work done (0+ / 0-)

    in this Libertarian dystopia where we have to spend every waking moment waging guerrilla warfare against armed gangs.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 08:30:59 AM PST

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