By Marquise Nichols
When government officials don’t put an effort into solving crimes, the community might take matters into its own hands. This is exactly what is happening in cities across Mexico. Citizens are taking law enforcement into their own hands. For the past few years, there has been an increase in vigilantes who have been fighting back against Mexico’s drug cartel and other violent criminals. Most recently four thieves were killed by a vigilante when they attempted to rob commuters on a bus on the outskirts of Mexico City, David Agren reported in The Guardian. One passenger got up from his seat and shot the robbers. He then returned the stolen items to their rightful owners.
The Guardian story says police are still looking for the shooter and information on his whereabouts, but no one is cooperating. Instead, people are praising the unidentified man and police have no leads, Agren reports. The people of Mexico are simply fed up with their government’s failure to combat the violence of criminals and the cartels.
Mexican drug cartels have long had a great deal of immunity in the country. The illegal drug trade has a huge impact on the country. According to Jason M. Breslow of Frontline News , over 164,000 people have been killed between 2007 and 2014 as a result of the war on drugs. Efforts by the Mexican government have failed to combat the massacre of Mexican citizens and there have been reports of cooperation between the cartels and political officials. Vigilantes in Mexico have gotten so much notoriety that they were the subject of an award-winning documentary “Cartel Land” by Matthew Heineman. Cartel Land follows Autodefensas, a Mexican vigilante group, as they fight the drug lords and try to gain back their land.
The recent killing of the bus robbers is just one of many incidents involving vigilantes in Mexico. Last month, six suspected thieves were kidnapped, and they had their hands amputated by a vigilante group called the Elite Anti-Rat Group, reports the Australian News. One of the victims was killed and the rest refused to say what happened, leaving the police with no leads. The statistics service INGEI found that over 98 percent of crimes go unsolved in Mexico, according to The Guardian . “This is the reason the people have less patience and expect less from the government,” Gerardo Priego Tapia, director of an anti-kidnapping group. told the Guardian reporter .
While the avengers or “justiciero” are getting a lot praise, others are questioning their actions. Elida, a mother of eight children who fled Michoacán last month and is living in a migrant shelter in Tijuana with her 14-year-old daughter, is not an advocate for the so-called vigilantes. She told The Daily Beast reporter Andera Noel that she witnessed a vigilante group shoot down a helicopter in retaliation. A helicopter that was supposed to rescue her and her children. She says she fears the criminals, the police and the vigilantes. “They are all the same, but have different interests,” she said. The police, criminals and vigilantes are all “crooked, and all colluded.”
So who questions those who think of themselves as the Robin Hoods of the world, and what happens when they become the villains?
Photograph by Mich Elizalde courtesy of StockSnap