By Adrián Alvarado
Kaos en la Red
January 15, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell
The taking of the municipality of Nueva Italia by self-defense and community guardians, and the attempt to advance on Apatzingán, important drug trafficking territory in Michoacán, set off red alarm lights for the regime. Immediately, the federal government announced the “Accord for Federal Support for the Security of Michoacán,” whose main objective is: “to rigorously and indiscriminately enforce the law against those carrying arms illegally.” The first action of the accord was to disarm the community guardians and self-defense groups, sparking clashes with the federal forces. The result: not one drug trafficker was detained or bothered, it is reported that four members of self-defense groups are dead at the hands of the army.
On February 24, 2013 the self-defense groups and community guardians appeared and spread throughout the state of Michoacán. According to their leaders, they used the Cherán and the Community Police in Guerrero as models by which to confront the drug trafficking thugs and killers.
The residents of the municipalities of Tierra Caliente for years were at the mercy of organized crime. Ranchers, farmers, professionals, workers, and businesspeople endured kidnappings, murders, extortion. The state’s response was nothing but complicity. The political struggle unleashed between politicians from the PRI and the PAN, in particular the sister of former President Felipe Calderón and the current PRI governor Fausto Vallejo, revealed that high and low-level government officials in Michoacán are in collusion with organized crime.
The community’s discontent expressed itself with the emergence of community guardians and self-defense committees. Initially armed with rifles, machetes and sticks, they tried to restore peace and quiet for their families and communities. We can read the statements of some regional leaders of the community guardians, and we can understand the emergence and rapid expansion of them: “We are tired of living in humiliation,” is said over and over again in interviews and statements. Rapidly these groups were formed and grew to include 14 municipalities. The quick advance of armed sectors of the population set off the government’s red alarm lights.
The residents and communities in arms questioned the exclusive monopoly of the bourgeois State to exercise violence and authority, even if the State’s “authority” was incapable of ending organized crime in Michoacán or at the national level. The armed people, through self-defense groups and community guardians did much more to combat organized crime in less than a year than the government’s police and military operations did during the previous 12 years.
From this, a logical conclusion can be drawn: If the people and the communities in arms can resolve their problems, beginning with the state of insecurity, without the intervention of the bourgeois State, as it has been an obstacle to living with dignity, then we don’t need it. The regime understands this, hence its response to the self-defense groups and community guardians.
Much has been written about this, including some who have asked if it is not a strategy by the PRI government to form paramilitary groups. The answer can be found in reality itself and not by making erroneous comparisons with events in different countries. These comments come from a place of distrust for our people and the possibility that as communities, students or workers we can self-organize and deal with this rot. As this is thought impossible, then all types of fanciful musings and bureaucratic maneuvers from above are imagined.
Certainly the self-defense movement is contradictory, many sectors of society are involved in it. They themselves have stated that they are made up of farmers, agricultural producers, businesspeople, workers, students, and including some community and municipal authorities. The main objective is to combat organized crime. They have taken over municipalities and community, have held popular assemblies, have taken weapons from the thugs and with these have armed the people. At first there was a certain confidence in the State, in the army, federal police and in some authorities. Their own experience has led them to important conclusions: to trust in their own forces. The police, army and local authorities betrayed them, municipal presidents have held marches against the self-defense groups, and they have left the criminals to act with impunity against the groups.
Although it is a movement against organized crime and not against the regime, the residents of Tierra Caliente have learned much in these months about what the State is and about the effectiveness of popular organizing, and these are dangerous lessons for the regime and valuable lessons for the people and workers. The response from the armed populous to the state and federal government is clear: we will not stop and we will not disarm.
What side is the government on
The Accord for Federal Support for the Security of Michaocán includes five basic points:
- The federal government is responsible for protecting the people of Michoacán.
- There will be an investment of 250 million pesos towards security in the state.
- New police will be trained and self-defense groups and community guardians are invited to join.
- The law will be rigorously and indiscriminately enforced against those who carry arms illegally.
- There will be a significant army and Federal Police presence.
The “Accord” is a clear message to the armed populous, not to the criminals, as the first action was to try to disarm the community guardians, which provoked clashes and left some dead. No action has been taken against the criminals who have burned buses, businesses, blocked highways; they have not detained a single reputed drug trafficker. The “accord” has a target and an objective: the disarmament and crushing of the self-defense groups and community guardians.
The government will certainly try to payoff and corrupt some of the leaders, in order to provoke division and demoralization among the communities – the call to join the police is the first evidence of this. Any approach or deal with the federal government will do away with what has been gained these past months and the violence, crime, kidnappings, extortions, killings will return. The criminal gangs will seek revenge against those who dared defy them and the local, state and federal governments will leave the people of Tierra Caliente at the mercy of organized crime.
Which way forward
The refusal to surrender weapons is positive, and to refuse to compromise with the federal government, to continue trusting in the strength of the movement, in the people and the communities, to regain lost ground and to recover the initial plan, to advance to Apatzingán and Morelia, to do away with organized crime and the government that protects it. To convert the natural feeling of hate towards organized crime and towards those who protect them into a program that assures the end of drug trafficking and all that it represents. To seize the assets and properties of the narcos, the politicians and businesspeople who protect them, to denounce and replace authorities linked to organized crime with popular representatives chosen from community assemblies. To link up with social and popular movements at the local and national level, to be wary of any deal with the local or federal government, to trust, just as now, in the people.
Drug trafficking is intrinsically linked to political and economic power in some regions, it can’t be done away with without shaking up power. When the government speaks of peace and order, it is referring to the peace of the cemeteries, where the people continue burying victims in silence.
The self-defense groups and community guardians have taught us a great lesson: only the people can save the people, and they are an expression of the great social events in which our people and workers will be the main actors.