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Mexicans Take Justice into Their Own Hands in Violence Reminiscent of the 1910 Revolution

September 27th 2010

Mexican Topics - Mexico lynching

An attempted kidnapping September 21 in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua touched off a burst of mass outrage that left two suspected young kidnappers dead and a small town in open rebellion. While the details are still sketchy, the events began with the abduction of a 17-year-old female worker of a seafood restaurant in the town of Ascensión by a group of young men.

Located south of the New Mexico border, Ascensión is in an agricultural region known for its production of chile peppers for the US export market and other crops. The rural area has suffered numerous kidnappings and killings during the last two years.

Alerted to the kidnapping, townspeople and soldiers mobilized, freed the victim and detained five alleged kidnappers; one suspect reportedly escaped. Hundreds of angry residents beat two of the detainees, teenagers, and blocked police from rescuing the suspects, who were later pronounced dead. Reportedly, the mother of one of the suspects witnessed her son's demise.

In a stand-off that lasted throughout the day, residents prevented two federal police helicopters from landing and blockaded roads to prevent military reinforcements from arriving. Armed with picks, shovels and machetes, enraged residents shouted at corrupt soldiers and police to leave. Some locals accused government security forces of colluding with criminal organizations.

One version of the events held that the rescued kidnap victim was the niece of a member of the local town council.

"La Chona Lights the Fuse," headlined Ciudad Juarez’s La polaka news site, whose director was just granted political asylum in the United States. The news organization couched the report in historical and contemporary terms: “The new Mexican Revolution could have begun this Tuesday in Ascensión.”

While mass lynchings are not uncommon in certain parts of Mexico, such acts have been rare in Chihuahua. The Ascensión incident came at an extremely delicate political moment in Chihuahua and Mexico. Submerged in violence, the border state is two weeks away from a political transition that will usher into power a new governor, new state legislature and local governments.

Since the July elections, the murders of several relatives of Governor-elect Cesar Duarte and other politicians, frequent public displays of banners displayed by the drug cartels warning of new attacks and round-the-clock executions have added constant doses of mass anxiety to an already-tense political and social environment characterized by the ongoing confrontation between heavily armed organized crime groups.

“We consider that an armed conflict which has not been duly recognized by international institutions exists in the state of Chihuahua and Ciudad Juarez in particular," read a statement from three prominent, non-governmental human rights organizations this week.

The cost has been devastating: Thousands of executions, murders of women, robberies, extortions, taxes on businesses for turf rights, deaths of human rights defenders and journalists, hundreds of thousands of displaced people, complaints of human rights violations that are not investigated or sanctioned, and tears and blood that run through the desert in total impunity. The statement was signed by representatives of the Chihuahua Commission in Solidarity and Defense of Human Rights, Paso del Norte Human Rights Center and the Women's Human Rights Center of Chihuahua City.

Nationally, anticipation and angst hangs in the air as Mexico commemorates the 200th anniversary of the War of Independence and 100th anniversary of the 1910 Revolution. Additionally, September 23 marks the 45th anniversary of the attack on the Madera army barracks not far from Ascensión. Led by school teacher Arturo Gamiz and Dr. Pablo Gomez, the guerrilla assault inspired a generation of revolutionaries whose ideological descendants are resurfacing in other parts of the country.

As Mexico celebrated its bicentennial this month, yet another self-proclaimed rebel band issued a declaration in the southern state of Guerrero. In a communiqué delivered to the Guerrero daily El Sur, the Armed People's Army called for a popular boycott of the upcoming gubernatorial election, an end to the political parties and unity of all the various revolutionary forces. Containing 11 political points, the message was accompanied by a video that portrayed a guerrilla column in the mountains The Ascension uprising drew heaps of praise on the Internet, with more than one writer suggesting that the mass action showed the way forward in a climate of corruption, lawlessness and institutionalized impunity.

According to the Chihuahua state government, three surviving suspects were successfully transferred to Ciudad Juarez. Authorities are investigating the deaths of the other two suspects, said a statement from the administration of Governor Jose Reyes Baeza, which is due to leave office early next month.

Quoted in the Mexican press, residents of Ascensión vowed to arm themselves and protect their town from its enemies.

Since the incidents in Ascensión, the mayor-elect of the town of Gran Morelos, Ricardo Solís Manríquez, was shot several times in the head by persons unknown. His condition remains guarded. Local sources theorize that Solis Manríquez had refused to permit narcoterrorists to dictate who he should designate as the police chief of the small Chihuahua municipality. In 2009, a prominent business association in the state officially asked the United Nations to send its famed blue-helmeted peacekeepers to restore order to the region. 

Kent Patterson edits Frontera NorteSur.from where this article is adapted. 

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