Marching for peace in Guerrero Marching for peace in Guerrero. milenio

Self-defense force forms in Guerrero

Gold mining region is at center of conflict between two criminal gangs

Citizens of 10 towns located in the gold mining region of Guerrero have taken up arms to form a self-defense group with the intention of stopping access by organized crime.

People from Carrizalillo, Tenantla, Amatitlán, Mezcala and other communities marched last weekend in the streets of the latter town in protest against violence.

Men and women marched wearing white and carrying white balloons and displaying placards on which they proclaimed the right to live in peace.

The geographical location of Mezcala, between the municipalities of Chilpancingo and Iguala, puts it in the middle of the turf war waged for years between the Guerreros Unidos and Rojos gangs.

The gold mining activity in the area and the financial resources it generates were added incentive for the gangs to fight for control of the region.

The events of September 2014 in Iguala, when 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college disappeared, triggered a crackdown on the activities of the gangs. In October that year an operation by the Federal Police effectively expelled the Guerreros Unidos from Carrizalillo, providing a respite to the surrounding area.

But a resurgence of the violence — gunfights, kidnappings, disappearances and raids on towns — drove citizens to create the new self-defense group.

During the protest march, former officials from Carrizalillo, where Mexico’s most productive gold mine is located, remembered the worst of being under the yoke of the Guerreros Unidos.

The gang took over the town for over a year, controlling its principal access and its main road, which at the time was known as the Street of Terror.

The gang went to the extreme of forcefully recruiting townspeople to man their checkpoints.

The people who lived on the Street of Terror had to give up their homes to the gangsters to house their informants and hitmen.

The geographical characteristics of the region where the 10 towns are located make it easy to control and monitor.

“This access is very important,” said one of the militia members about the entrance to Mezcala. “[Criminals] enter and leave through here and no one says anything.”

The self-defense group, he explained, was created out of need, not indulgence. “We cannot allow [criminals] to keep coming in, because [official forces] come chasing them and sometimes it can turn into a gunfight with regrettable consequences.”

“We’ve talked about it, and all the towns support us.”

The members of the new militia group are aware that the authorities might give them a hostile reception so they have asked the three levels of government to allow them to operate, because they are assuming the protection of their own towns and their citizens.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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