Mexican Vigilantes Not Willing to Give Up Their Guns

One major rationale for government is that it is needed to protect people from criminals. But when governments fail to protect people, they never apologize and commend people for protecting themselves. Instead, they try to disarm the people so that they are no longer able to defend themselves.

Much like the Threat Management Center in Detroit and “Glock blocks” in Oregon, Michoacán farmers discovered private solutions to public problems. They got tired of being terrorized and victimized by the Knights Templar drug cartel, so they took up weapons and drove them away.

Now the government wants the vigilantes to “demobilize.” From Yahoo News:

The ceremony in the town of Tepalcatepec, where the movement began in February 2013, will involve the registration of thousands of guns by the federal government and an agreement that the so-called “self-defense” groups will either join a new official rural police force or return to their normal lives and acts as voluntary reserves when called on.

The government will go town by town to organize and recruit the new rural forces.

“This is a process of giving legal standing to the self-defense forces,” said vigilante leader Estanislao Beltran.

But tension remained on Friday in the coastal part of the state outside the port of Lazaro Cardenas, where other “self-defense” groups plan to continue as they are, defending their territory without registering their arms. Vigilantes against the demobilization have set up roadblocks in the coastal town of Caleta.

“We don’t want them to come, we don’t recognize them,” vigilante Melquir Sauceda said of the government and the new rural police forces. “Here we can maintain our own security. We don’t need anyone bringing it from outside.”

With Saturday’s ceremony, a federal commissioner now in charge of the violence-plagued state hopes to end the “wild west” chapter of the movement, in which civilians built roadblocks and battled cartel members for towns in the rich farming area called the “Tierra Caliente,” or “Hot Land.”

The new rural forces are designed to be a way out of an embarrassing situation, in which elected leaders and law enforcement agencies lost control of the entire state to the pseudo-religious Knights Templar drug cartel. Efforts to retake control with federal police and military failed. Eventually government forces had to rely on the vigilantes because of their knowledge of where to find the cartel gunmen.

The assumption here seems to be that there is something unstable or short-lived about the self-policed state of Michoacán. Unless they re-establish Federal control over their police force, they will not be safe.

It is true that there have been some fights between vigilantes and some crimes. But it isn’t clear that this is worse than the normal police corruption they might suffer under Federal Control. At least they removed the real threat of the Drug Cartel, something that the Federal police were never able to accomplish.