Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Learn, or die. -- “Here, the people are defending the town.”

Hilario: Even if we had the guns, we know how to plant and grow, we don't know how to kill.

Old Man: Then learn, or die!

-- The Magnificent Seven

At Global Guerrillas, John Robb brings our attention to this story from the Houston Chronicle under the header "Tribal Raids and Medieval Defenses."

Here is the salient point:

“We aren’t able to confront this sort of thing,” Solis said. “We have a few shotguns, some .22 rifles, a few pistols — nothing compared to what they have.”

Right. Once again we see how Mexican laws play into the hands of bandidos. Mexicans are forbidden to own weapons of military caliber. Here we see how that works in practice.


Rural Mexican villages dig moats to repel gangsters

Ditches don’t always deter raids, but federal troops can’t be spared

Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
March 22, 2009, 3:43PM

CUAUHTEMOC, Mexico — Little town, big hell.

That proverb about turmoil in small communities has never seemed truer than in this gangster-besieged village and a neighboring one in the bean fields and desert scrub a long day’s drive south of the Rio Grande.

Since right before Christmas, armed raiders repeatedly have swept into both villages to carry away local men. Government help arrived too late, or not at all.

Terrified villagers — at the urging of army officers who couldn’t be there around the clock — have clawed moats across every access road but one into their communities, hoping to repel the raids.

“This was a means of preservation,” said Ruben Solis, 47, a farmers’ leader in Cuauhtemoc, a collection of adobe and concrete houses called home by 3,700 people. “It’s better to struggle this way than to face the consequences.”

But shortly after midnight last Sunday, villagers said, as many as 15 SUVs loaded with pistoleros attacked nearby San Angel, population 250, and kidnapped five people. Four victims were returned unharmed a few days later. The fifth hostage, a teenage boy, was held to exchange for the intended target the raiders missed, villagers said.

“We have support of the federal forces,” said an official of the dirt-street village. “Security is what we’re lacking.”

After the earthworks were dug in both villages, volunteers manned checkpoints at the remaining open entrances. Those sentinels, however, were removed when it was decided they couldn’t stop a serious attack, anyhow.

“We aren’t able to confront this sort of thing,” Solis said. “We have a few shotguns, some .22 rifles, a few pistols — nothing compared to what they have.” (Emphasis supplied, MBV)

President Felipe Calderon’s war on Mexico’s drug gangsters has met with mixed success since he began deploying about 45,000 soldiers and federal police after assuming office in December 2006. The federal forces have been able to defeat the gunmen in open combat but unable, so far, to extinguish the bloodshed or the crime.

Narcotics-related violence killed at least 6,000 people last year and looks likely to match that toll again by Christmas. Kidnappings, extortions and bank robberies are on the rise in many cities and even in rural flyspecks like Cuauhtemoc and San Angel.

The streets of Guadalupe Victoria empty before 6 p.m. these days. A fear of gang violence, particularly from the Zetas, borders on hysteria around the state, residents and officials said.

Though still far less serious, the troubles faintly echo those of a century ago when Cuencame township, which includes Cuauhtemoc and San Angel, suffered massacres and guerrilla attacks in the lead-up to the Mexican Revolution.

Most of Mexico’s violence these days isn’t politically inspired, but the gangsters’ hit-and-run tactics often mirror those of an insurgency. Government forces frequently find themselves without adequate manpower to be everywhere at once.

“This is really the job of the federal government,” Solis said of his town’s efforts at self-defense. “But they don’t have enough men to keep up. There is delinquency wherever you go.”

Fear of the Zetas

Like others across central and western Mexico, many in and around these villages assume their tormentors are the Zetas, gunmen aligned with the Gulf Cartel, based in Matamoros and other cities bordering South Texas.

Government officials blame much of Mexico’s violence on wars between gangs like the Zetas, whose founders were army deserters, for control of smuggling corridors, local drug sales and other rackets.

Solis said he and other townspeople suspect those who raided Cuauhtémoc in early February, kidnapping the 23-year-old son of a bean-and-grain trader, are simply “bad characters from the area who have just taken the Zeta name.”

Fear of the Zetas borders on hysteria in this corner of Durango state, residents and officials agreed. Village boys playing with toy trucks have taken to shouting “here come the Zetas” when staging chases, Solis said.

When a rumor started March 10 in a town nearby that scores of Zetas were planning to attack, stores in the area closed, classes were canceled and people fled.

“A psychosis prevails across the whole region,” said Isidro Aguilar, the police chief of Guadalupe Victoria, a market town 25 miles from Cuauhtemoc, who otherwise denied that the area faces a crime plague. “There are people who are taking advantage of it.”

Still, people’s paranoia doesn’t mean someone’s not out to get them.

Gangsters have staged platoon-strength raids on towns in Chihuahua and other nearby states. Kidnappings have increased, as well as cold-call extortion attempts to even poor residents of the area.

A number of merchants, as well as two members of the city council, have been kidnapped in Guadalupe Victoria since late December, residents said. Ransoms, they said, have reached several hundred thousand dollars.

“No one knows who took them. No one knows anything,” said Gilberto Cabello, the head of the town’s merchants association. “Everyone is left wondering who is next.”

Defense left to the town

Not surprisingly, villagers in Cuauhtemoc and San Angel remain on edge, sharply eyeing strangers, careful not to say too much to outsiders.

“The less said about this, the better,” said a city hall official in Cuencame, the township seat. “It can be dangerous to say too much.”

Soldiers and federal police took up the defense of Cuauhtemoc and San Angel last week after the towns’ plight played on the front page of a Mexico City newspaper. But the patrols evaporated after a few days, leaving nothing but the ditches in the villagers’ defense.

“That’s the way it is,” said a sun-weathered Roberto Fuentes, who was helping build a sidewalk a block from one of Cuauhtemoc’s earthworks. “If the government doesn’t do it, we have to.

“Here, the people are defending the town.”



pdxr13 said...

Here is an opportunity for US foreign aid to do some good: Train & arm farmers to defend their village. What a surprise the Zetas would get from a few hundred vintage .303 or .308 rifles fired over a known range from concealment.

jon said...

maybe they ought to cross the border and buy some "assault weapons" at those darned american gun shows.

straightarrow said...

ahhh, but that would be illegal and moral. Two things dictatorial regimes will punish, especially when conjoined.

jon said...

"Security is what we're lacking."

no, liberty is what you're lacking. your country gave it up, and now you see what you get for it.

"i tremble for my country when i reflect that god is just."

ParaPacem said...

Damn shame those poor folk can't just cruise up to the border and pick up some of those American grenades, mortars, RPGs, and full auto assault weapons that are so easy to get.
But you know - I am not trying to judge the poor bastards, I know they are scared, but I must say, fighting spirit could make a difference. Like many unarmed Poles and Ukrainians, even without sufficient firepower, even the poor can often manage gasoline bombs ( Molotovs), lye bombs, and manure-based IEDs... there has to be a way to at least take out a few of the oppressors and make an example of them. Maybe I'm just an optimist.

CorbinKale said...

I am guessing those small towns are aware of the problems that plague UN forces, seeing that they are not requesting international aid.

Sean said...

See, I told you. You have to answer for every good deed! Calvera, upon losing patience with the good citizens and the gringo interlopers.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we could start a pool to buy those folks a few cases of Mosin-Nagant91/30's and a few cases of ammo to go with them. Ship them in as charitable farming impliments.