The mayor of a small town in northern Mexico has announced that his people are on the verge of arming themselves in response to a series of clashes between cartel gunmen that have plagued the town for months.
Mexico’s El Diario reports that the town of Uruachi in Chihuahua state, which borders on Texas and New Mexico, has been virtually under siege since the beginning of the year, when fights between rival criminal organizations began to increase in frequency. These skirmishes came to a head on September 9, when a dozen gunmen descended on the town looking for several individuals.
Since then the men have carried out a series of attacks on other groups in Uruachi, turning the town into a virtual warzone. According to Uruachi Mayor Aldo Campos, the confrontations have littered the streets with over 2,000 spent rounds.
Although the shootings have brought police investigators and the military to Uruachi, Mr. Campos claimed that their presence has done little to dissuade criminal activity in the town.
In response, the mayor has declared that the residents of Uruachi are prepared to take matters into their own hands, even to the point of taking up arms against the gunmen. "We are worried that the men have blended into our community. We aren't afraid and we know what to do. The young people are already looking for weapons," he said.
A spokesman for the Attorney General of Chihuahua, Carlos Gonzalez, confirmed to Spanish news agency EFE that a group of gunmen entered the town on Friday in search of several individuals, but said that the men fled once the military and police investigators arrived.
This is not the first time that a community has turned to vigilantism in response to the country’s shoddy justice system. Last May, the town of Cheran, Michoacan, formed a community defense force in order to protect the communal forest from illegal woodcutters protected by the Familia Michoacana drug gang. As InSight Crime has reported, a string of similar incidents in recent years suggests that vigilantism is on the rise in Mexico.
--- Geoffrey Ramsey is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of his research here.