Residents of Apaxtla de Castrejón, Guerrero, took up arms three years ago and succeeded in expelling the Familia Michoacana cartel from their town. But now there’s a new gang threatening to muscle in.
Fearing an invasion by Mexico’s most powerful criminal organization, community police are guarding all entry points to the town and have imposed an 11:00pm curfew.
The implementation of the beefed-up security measures in Apaxtla, a small town and municipal seat located just outside the notoriously violent Tierra Caliente region of Guerrero, follows reports by shopkeepers, farmers and other residents that they have received extortion, kidnapping and even death threats in recent days from members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
“We have a border with Tierra Caliente, with the municipality of Arcelia, the Familia Michoacana rules there but now the Jalisco New Generation Cartel has also arrived and they’re threatening to come to invade us, to subjugate us,” Heliodoro Ocampo, a member of the Apaxtla community police, told the newspaper Milenio.
“[But] we’re not willing [to allow that to happen],” he added.
“And not just [an invasion] by them, by any cartel, whatever its name is; the Guerreros Unidos, the Familia Michoacana, the Jalisco Cartel . . . they’re not going to reach our town because our town is fortified, all the entries and exits are guarded and we won’t allow them to come to try to control us.”
Milenio witnessed the determination of the community police to keep their town safe first hand: a reporter from the newspaper accompanied about 100 of its heavily-armed members as they carried out a late-night patrol last weekend.
During the patrol, Ocampo explained how the curfew will work.
“Here in the town we all know each other, we all know who we are . . . If we see a young couple [outside] at a time they shouldn’t be, they’ll be asked to go to their homes, the patrol vehicle will go by . . . warning that the curfew is already in effect . . .” he said.
“If on the way back, we see that they’re still there we’ll put them before the municipal authorities,” Ocampo added, explaining that fines of up to 500 pesos (US $25) will be issued to those who fail to observe community police instructions to go home.
“We’re going to be measured, it’s not about harming anyone, it’s about getting to the heart of what’s happening in our town and remedying it,” he said.
The community police said the curfew will continue for the next six months. In addition to making it easier to identify outsiders who may pose a threat to security, the measure also seeks to combat drug dealing and prostitution, they said.
In the neighboring municipality of Teloloapan, which is within Tierra Caliente boundaries, members of another self-defense force told Milenio that achieving peace without the intervention of state or federal authorities is possible.
“We can assure neighboring towns that it’s calm here. As citizens, we now enjoy and live in peace, which is very different from other times. Five, eight or 10 years ago we lived with terror, with worry, that one day you’d be abducted or . . . your child would be taken . . . Unlike a few years ago, today we live in peace, the peace that what we’ve always sought,” said a commander of the Teloloapan force who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Despite the success they have achieved, he explained that the autodefensas would prefer to lay down their weapons and allow federal authorities, such as the newly-formed National Guard or the military, to take over security duties.
“. . . I believe that their work and our responsibility is the same: to safeguard the physical safety of our citizens . . . It would be good for them to approach us . . . to speak to us, the doors of the town are open, this is their humble home as well.”
Source: Milenio (sp)