Mexican Vigilantes Take Over Cities, Oust Cartel and Confront Police

PrintNACLA Blogger Peter Watt Talks with Voice of Russia

“By this point, people are being killed in Mexico at a rate quicker than the Guatemalan genocide. They are being disappeared at a more intense rate than during the Argentine military dictatorship. So I think people see that the apparent strategy to clamp down on organized crime and improve the security situation is completely at odds with reality.”-Peter Watt.

Watt elaborates that the civilian militia groups were formed to fill a desperate need to defend the security of individual towns, since government forces had failed to do so.

hear the interview, from voice of russia

By Brittany Peterson

WASHINGTON (VR)—Over the last year, vigilante groups have become a survival method in Mexican towns.

Yet now, they aren’t just fighting the cartel. This week, they clashed with police forces too.

Mexican federal forces seized control of the war-torn state of Michoacan Tuesday, in an attempt to re-establish public order. This comes after vigilantes surrounded entire towns over a series of weeks in a bid to oust the Knights Templar drug cartel from their communities.

Radio VR’s Brittany Peterson delves into this issue with Peter Watt. He teaches Latin American Studies at the University of Sheffield and is co-author of the book, Drug War Mexico, and also writes for

MEXICO, Uspero: An armed member of the citizens’ self-protection police stands guard in a barricade in Uspero community, Michoacan State, Mexico, on January 16, 2014. On the eve, federal police and army troops said they had 17 cities and towns in western Mexico under control after clashing with vigilantes and seizing Apatzingan (population 120,000) –a bastion of the Knights Templars cartel– Uruapan (315,000) and Mugica (45,000) among others. The turmoil in Michoacan has become the biggest security challenge for President Enrique Pena Nieto’s 13-month-old administration, undermining his pledge to reduce drug violence.
Photo credit: © AFPPHOTO/Hector Guerrero

Drug War Mexico: Politics, Neoliberalism and Violence in the New Narcoeconomy, Peter Watt & Roberto Zepeda, Zed Books, 2012.

“Reports from media organizations like Televisa in Mexico, CNN in the US, and the BBC in the UK tend to present the ‘drug war’ in Mexico as a mysterious and inexplicable conflict in which the government (with the help of its ally, the United States) and the army attempt to defeat the evil tactics and poisonous influence of organized crime,” write Watt and Zepeda in the introduction. “Within this narrow and misleading representation of the drug war, state actors who perpetrate violence and abuse human rights are rarely ascribed agency, and thus are afforded complete immunity by influential mainstream media organizations. Consequently, the drug war is seldom given the historico-political context and analysis it surely merits.”
What follows in Drug War Mexico is Watt and Zepeda’s attempt to map how the intensification of violence in Mexico “did not arrive out of the blue.”


A brief history of drug cultivation, use, and state power in Mexico opens the book, which then delves into anti-drugs initiatives in Mexico from the 1970s onwards. By the time of the presidency of Luis Echeverría (1970-1976), write Watt and Zepeda, the government of Mexico was already associating “all types of political activism with criminality and frequently with drug trafficking.” Watt and Zepeda set up the national and international context at the time, painting in broad strokes the Mexico where the CIA and the DEA began to set up a “permanent drug war.”

from upside down world news: Book Review – Drug War Mexico: Politics, Neoliberalism and Violence in the New Narcoeconomy


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