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Mexico's Drug Violence Gives Rise To Vigilantism

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Mexico's Drug Violence Gives Rise To Vigilantism

Latin America

Mexico's Drug Violence Gives Rise To Vigilantism

Mexico's Drug Violence Gives Rise To Vigilantism

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Frustration among Mexicans over President Felipe Calderon's inability to stem drug violence is spawning acts of vigilantism. Local officials and average citizens are taking it upon themselves to stop the violence in their neighborhoods.

GUY RAZ, host:

We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

It's been three years since Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon, declared war against the country's drug cartels. But despite efforts by his administration, there's growing frustration over crime.

Just outside the capital this week, a mob tried to lynch a group of alleged kidnappers. And in the border city of Juarez, escalating violence prompted business groups to ask the United Nations for peacekeeping troops.

NPR's Jason Beaubien reports on a violent week in a year's long war.

JASON BEAUBIEN: More than 6,000 people have died this year in Mexico in drug-related violence. Despite the deployment of tens of thousands of soldiers and federal police to fight the drug gangs, despite the seizure of tons of narcotics, despite the arrests of high level members of every cartel, the killing and the violence continue.

Mauricio Fernandez Garza, the mayor of a wealthy suburb of Monterrey, got himself into trouble this week after declaring with glee that El Negro, a notorious local gangster, was dead. However, El Negro didn't turn up dead until five hours later along with three other corpses in a gray Chevy Equinox. The mayor's premature announcement raised eyebrows because he just created a special security force to fight drug traffickers, extortionists and kidnappers, and he said the force might even operate outside the law.

Mr. MAURICIO FERNANDEZ (Mayor, San Pedro Garza Garcia): (Spanish spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Fernandez defended the new security force, saying all cities have intelligence operations. In the past, he said, we've been making fools of ourselves, all us, acting like we don't know anything; we don't know who's involved as if the fight isn't ours so I don't do anything. Fernandez said he was going to do things differently. But after questions arose about how he knew about El Negro's brutal murder, Fernandez got a public scolding from federal officials. He now says he will only fight crime through legal means.

(Soundbite of shouting)

BEAUBIEN: Meanwhile, in the state of Mexico, just outside the capital, riot police this week had to rescue a gang of alleged kidnappers from an angry mob. The suspects were being held at the town hall in Cuijingo. During the melee, a Televisa reporter was hit in the head with a rock and hospitalized. The next morning, the network turned to their cameraman, Jorge Pliego, to recount the chaos.

Mr. JORGE PLIEGO (Cameraman, Televisa): (Spanish spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Pliego described the crowd hurling Molotov cocktails and beating on the police. The people began to set fire to the building, he says. One of the handcuffed suspects was wearing a police uniform. Another was in his underwear after being attacked by the mob. A third had bruises and blood running down his face. Eventually, federal police whisked the alleged criminals away in a pickup truck as angry residents chased them down the street.

This week, the Mexican Council of Bishops even weighed in on the rampant violence declaring Ya basta or enough already. They called on everyone even peripherally involved in organized crime to end the bloodshed.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Mexico City.

(Soundbite of music)

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