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5 November 2012

It’s something you don’t hear much about, but the violence in Mexico that one reads about has less to do with narcotics smuggling per se than with a crisis in agriculture.   The article below sees narcotics and other commodity exploitation as two separate issues.  They’re not.

It’s a perfect storm:  with corporate agricultural subsidies (indirectly now in the U.S. through various corporate taxes and export credits) having devastated the rural economy here, leaving subsistence farmers and small scale communal enterprises ripe for picking.  While narcotics are a viable alternative crop, should they be legalized, I don’t know if the violence would stop, or — as with   timber and mineral resources there wouldn’t be just as much violence, as the well-financed gangs (whether the Sinaloa Cartel or Montsanto doesn’t really make all that much difference) find the people whose homes and farms stand in the way of large scale exploitation standing in their way.

I suppose one needs to “thank”  U.S. drug consumers for paying the wages that support  the shock troops needed by foreign corporations  put down resistance to their grab of Mexican resources.

From the electronic news service, Frontera NorteSur (Center for Latin American and Border Studies, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico).

In the final days of the Calderon presidency, anti-crime uprisings are spreading in parts of rural Mexico. Similar to the “citizen uprisings” in the Michoacan indigenous communities of Cheran and Urapicho, residents in a section of neighboring Guerrero state have now taken security matters into their own hands.

The most recent flashpoint is an indigenous zone known as La Canada, where hundreds of armed residents responded to the ringing of a church bell, women disarmed the local police and locals set up barricades at the entrances to the town of Olinala on October 27. Classes were suspended, and an evening curfew ordered. Infuriated residents also set fire to a home and vehicles belonging to suspected criminals.

Only days later, on October 30, residents of the town of Cualac reportedly took similar action, while inhabitants of Temalacatzingo were also  assuming security duties.

“What you are seeing is a citizen uprising in which the people are undertaking defense of their own security and tranquility,” said Abel Barrera, the longtime director of the non-governmental Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Mountain.

Barrera said an explosive situation had been brewing in La Canada for some time, with officials ignoring public safety complaints and local law enforcement agencies complicit in organized criminal activities including drug dealing in middle and high schools, kidnapping, extortion and murder.

Ironically, Barrera added, the paving of a road that easily connected the once-isolated region to the state of Puebla ended up benefiting organized crime more than the local inhabitants.

La Canada is the region where Moises Villanueva de la Luz, Congressman for President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was found dead after being kidnapped in September 2011. For Olinala’s residents, the slaying of a taxi driver was the last straw, press accounts indicated.

Last year, a dress rehearsal of sorts for the current uprising was staged in the town of Huamuxitlan when citizens detained 16 alleged kidnappers. A citizen organization from  Huamuxitlan and the CRAC, the leadership group of the community police forces that patrol dozens of indigenous communities in the Costa Chica and La Montana regions of Guerrero, have thrown their support behind the people of Olinala.

According to La Canada activists, their objective is to “coordinate with other brothers who are living in the same circumstances and not allow hired killers, narcos and delinquents to trample more over the people.”  The goal of the movement is to establish a new security and justice system, they said.

In another region of Guerrero, where the high Sierra Madres fold into the violence-torn Tierra Caliente, collective landowners of the Fresnos de Puerto Rico ejido threatened to take up arms last month unless authorities cracked down on paramilitary groups accused of terrorizing and murdering small farmers.

In a statement,  the ejido members blamed an armed group allegedly headed by Serafin Algere Cortez for committing crimes, and asserted that “mercenaries” were receiving 25,000 pesos for each militant of the leftist Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI) they kill. In 2009 ERPI  Comandante Ramiro (Omar Guerrero Solis) was assassinated in the same area, and violence continues, according to the locals.

The ejido of  Fresnos de Puerto Rico declared:

“Due to the constant murders, threats and extortions over timber sales, our only recourse is to take up arms against any enemy, because the community police post has not functioned…we want to live and work in peace. For three years, we have been in constant fear. Nobody can go to work and development projects have been halted.”

This year’s uprisings in Michoacan and Guerrero happen in a rural Mexico where erosion of governmental support for small farmers and the increased integration of the country into the global economy has created power and justice vacuums.

In many places, formal state authority has been largely supplanted by parallel governments involved in drug trafficking and other criminal enterprises. Indigenous communities are also increasingly resisting threats to their community integrity and social fabric from over-logging, new highways, mines and other large development projects imposed by outsiders.

Analysts and close observers had mixed reactions to the surge in armed citizen uprisings. Tlachinollan’s Abel Barrera said it was a positive development that the people were standing up, but that a danger existed of bloody confrontation and the “law of the jungle” prevailing if grievances were not seriously addressed by the authorities.

Columnist and legal consultant Alfonso Zarate wrote that the Michoacan and Guerrero uprisings presented the incoming PRI administration of Enrique Pena Nieto with the challenge of “strengthening municipal authorities” and crafting public policies that “reverse the profound social dislocations which the communities live in and that constitute fertile ground for the interests of criminal bands.”

In Olinala, meanwhile, Guerrero state and municipal officials met this past weekend with residents. The people demanded the presence of the Mexican armed forces;  stepped up anti-drug operations in schools; purging the local police force, as well as allocating greater resources for public security; permission to keep arms in their homes; and help in obtaining political asylum abroad for 11 young people who had provided townspeople with information about criminals.

One man said the region was in the midst of a cultural crisis caused by the penetration of organized crime. The youth, he contended, “no longer dream about becoming doctors or teachers, but drug traffickers.” According to Rossana Mora Patino, Guerrero state undersecretary for political affairs, a follow-up meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, November 6.

Separately, Guerrero Governor Angel Aguirre of the Party of the Democratic Revolution said he would convey the residents’ petition to Operation Safe Guerrero, the federal-state campaign officially charged with improving security in the troubled Mexican state, but which is under mounting criticism for ineffectiveness.

Sources: El Universal, November 1, 2 and 4, 2012. Articles by Alfonso Zarate, Juan Cervantes, Adriana Covarrubias and Notimex.  El Sur, October 27, 2012;  November 1 and 4, 2012.  Articles by Zacarias Cervantes, Rosalba Ramirez, Sergio Ferrer, Karina Contreras, and editorial staff. El Diario de Juarez/Milenio, October 31, 2012. La Jornada (Guerrero Edition), October 31, 2012. Article by Citlal Giles Sanchez. La Jornada, October 8, 2012.  Article by Sergio Ocampo Arista. Proceso/Apro, September 17, 2011.

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