Ranchers' militia members in Oaxaca. Ranchers' militia members in Oaxaca.

Oaxaca defense group fights cattle rustling

Self-defense militias combat criminal gangs in three regions

Several self-defense groups are operating in the state of Oaxaca but rather than protecting communities threatened by crime gangs their purpose is to protect cattle.

And they have official recognition from the armed forces.

The self-defense militias are up against criminal gangs in the Istmo de Tehuantepec, Costa and Cuenca del Papaloapan regions of the state, where not only have cattle been stolen but ranchers themselves have been victims of kidnapping.

A total of 113 people have received training this year from the federal Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) and the Public Security Secretariat of Oaxaca, and are authorized to carry firearms. The Army has also equipped the groups with uniforms, communication equipment and patrol vehicles.

The chairman of the state’s Cattle Ranchers’ Union, Jorge López Guerra, said that only second-generation ranchers are eligible to become members of the self-defense groups. Third parties are not eligible.

So far the militia groups have recovered 100 stolen head of cattle and thwarted the actions of six different gangs, focusing their activities on the Veracruz, Chiapas and Guerrero state borders, where most of the rustling has occurred.

López said the militias’ activities are carried out in coordination with security forces, and that arrests and other operations are reported directly to the state Attorney General’s office.

“So far we’ve identified that many of the thefts of cattle and kidnappings are committed by neighbors or foremen on ranches that were infiltrated by organized crime,” said the ranchers’ leader.

The Cattle Ranchers’ Union says that over 1,000 head of cattle have been stolen and 12 ranchers kidnapped in the last year.

López claims the state’s amended penal code encourages cattle theft because the crime is more forcefully prosecuted when someone is found in possession of four or more animals. As a result, he said, small-scale theft has been more frequent and the criminals are released after paying an inexpensive bail.

The ranchers’ militia first began operating in Oaxaca at least two years ago.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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