Eye for an eye: rough justice in Mexico's Wild West

Fri Feb 1, 2013 4:33am EST
 
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By Simon Gardner

EL MEZON, Mexico (Reuters) - Wielding machetes and rusty shotguns, a motley crew in face masks escorts dozens of captives onto a basketball court to face a public "trial" for suspected ties to criminal gangs.

This is Wild West justice, Mexican-style.

Outraged at relentless extortion, kidnapping and theft as a wave of drug-related violence washes over Mexico, farmers, shopkeepers and other residents in the mountainous southern state of Guerrero are taking the law into their own hands as "community police."

Both state and federal police as well as the military leave them to their own devices, manning checkpoints at entries to towns, but venturing no farther.

T-shirts pulled over their faces with holes cut for the eyes and nose, dozens of gunmen on Thursday flanked the tiny square in the hamlet of El Mezon, where more than 50 prisoners were paraded in public and accused of crimes from murder to rape to theft. No real evidence against them was presented.

The vigilante justice underscores a serious challenge facing new President Enrique Pena Nieto, who has vowed to shift the focus away from a head-to-head fight with drug-smuggling cartels that has killed up to 70,000 people in the past six years and to a more effective campaign against extortion and violence.

He plans to create a civilian-led police force made up of former military personnel that will replace the armed forces in the field, although until then, the government will keep troops out on patrol to deter violence.

Many Mexicans have little faith in police forces or the justice system. In this corner of the country, they are taking on the job themselves.   Continued...

 
Masked members of the "Community Police", run by local residents of towns to police their communities, escort dozens of prisoners accused of crimes from petty theft to murder onto a basketball court to face public trial, in the town of El Mezon, near Ayutla de los Libres in the Costa Chica (small coast) region of the southern state of Guerrero January 31, 2013. REUTERS/Henry Romero