Vigilante groups stand alone in the fight against cartels, before AMLO’s government indifference

Photo: (Yucatàn al minuto)

Mexico’s drug cartels appear to be feeling the heat from the vigilante groups that have stepped into the gap left by the government and the police in the fight against drug cartels, engaging in – and often winning – ferocious firefights to protect their villages from narcos.

The increasing prominence of these armed but informal civil defense groups, known as autodefensas, was recently highlighted after a drug kingpin last week threatened to kill a top TV journalist for airing a highly critical interview with a vigilante leader.

The brazen attempt to silence Azucena Uresti, a well-respected anchor, has once again shone a spotlight on the Mexican government’s inability — or unwillingness — to halt the cartels’ bloodshed, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives in Mexico.

Barricaded in the market town of Tepalcatepec and surrounded by dozens of heavily-armed men from the ultraviolent Jalisco New Generation Cartel (JNGC), the anonymous man told Ms Uresti that the narcos would turn it into a “ghost town” if they broke through the heavily fortified perimeter.

“The people are scared. We are going to do what we have to,” adding that his militia would “bury” the JNGC rather than let them “kill everyone”.

Mexico's drug cartel, Jalisco New Generation cartel
Mexico’s drug cartel, Jalisco New Generation cartel

Such autodefensas groups are controversial in Mexico.

They cover a wide spectrum, said security expert Alejandro Hope, from those genuinely seeking to defend communities abandoned to their fate by the corruption-addled police to others “immersed in crime” which are actually aligned with some of the cartels.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has criticized them, saying that it is the job of law enforcement to maintain public security.

But he has failed to acknowledge the authorities’ frequent woeful failure to protect Mexicans from the drug traffickers’ savagery.

“He doesn’t appear to have a strategy,” said Mr Hope. “His handling of this has been erratic. He refuses to outright condemn the cartels and he also doesn’t propose alternatives.”

The anonymous interviewee also criticized the cartel’s leader, druglord Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, who has become a multi-millionaire by trafficking cocaine, cannabis, and heroin to the United States.

In video that went viral in Mexico shows how much some of the country’s criminal organisations now resemble armies - Twitter
In a video that went viral in Mexico shows how much some of the country’s criminal organizations now resemble armies – Twitter

“We don’t know what he is after, because he doesn’t care about Michoacán,” said the man, apparently a local farmer.

Perhaps it was this that irked Mr Oseguera Cervantes, given his cartel, despite its brutality, likes to portray itself as a Robin Hood organization giving a helping hand to the poor whenever it can.

Or possibly it was the suggestion that Mr. Oseguera Cervantes, known for his love of cockfighting and high-profile violence against rival cartels and law enforcement alike, had turned his back on his roots in the central Mexican state of Michoacán.

Whatever the trigger, the Aug 4 interview on Mexican station Radio Formula prompted the high-profile kingpin, nicknamed “El Mencho”, to issue an unprecedented death threat last week against journalist Ms. Uresti.

Just days later, an anonymous Twitter account, which has subsequently been taken down, published a video featuring a man claiming to be El Mencho.

Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, commonly referred to by his alias El Mencho
Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, commonly referred to by his alias El Mencho

Flanked by several men sporting AK-47 machine guns and balaclavas, the man accuses the journalist, who is widely respected in Mexico, of “unbalanced” reporting.

“I assure you that wherever you are, I will find you and I will make you eat your words even if they accuse me of femicide,” he concludes.

Uresti responded to El Mencho by returning to the air and standing her ground, but the threat is anything but idle.

Based in Jalisco, a central state neighboring Michoacán, Mr. Oseguera Cervantes is one of Mexico’s most wanted men, suspected of ordering hundreds of murders. The US has put a $10 million bounty on his head.

Mexico is the Western hemisphere’s most dangerous country for media workers, whose coverage of the drug violence has long made them a target for the cartels, although normally, drug traffickers target little-known journalists toiling at the frontlines of the conflict.

Source: Yahoo Nees



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