Mexico

The Mexican Government Absorbs the Autodefensas—Or Is It Just Recognizing the Power They've Won?

A new twist in Mexico's drug war.

|

"The lunatic is all idée fixe, and whatever he comes across confirms his lunacy. You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense, by his flashes of inspiration, and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars." —Umberto Eco

In parts of Mexico ravaged by the drug war, ordinary citizens have formed militias, dubbed autodefensas, to protect themselves against brutal cartels such as the Knights Templar. (No, not those guys. These guys.) The militias haven't been shy about taking on the government either: "In some instances," a sympathetic piece in Dissent notes, "the groups disarmed and arrested the local police before acting against the criminals." Sometimes damned as vigilantes and sometimes hailed as liberators, the autodefensas have represented a grassroots third force in the conflict.

This week the dynamics of that conflict changed. Borderland Beat reports:

The Self-Defense Groups that emerged in Michoacán signed an agreement today along with the federal and state government that will transform them into elements of the Rural Defense Corps, an existing organization under the control of the military. Rurales, groups of armed volunteers who were once used to keep peace in rural areas when security forces were unavailable, once existed between 1861 and 1914, during Mexico's turbulent 19th century.

The signing achieved under the Agreement for the Federal Security Assistance of Michoacán (Acuerdo para el Apoyo Federal a la Seguridad de Michoacán), states that the government of the Republic and the state of Michoacán came to a "conviction of rebuilding peace and public order". The Self-Defense Groups also agreed to provide a list of all of its members.

So: Did the state just formally recognize the power the volunteer forces seized for themselves? Or did it find a clever way to take command—and take names? Discuss in the comments.

NEXT: White House on SOTU: Obama to Announce Executive Orders on Minimum Wage, Job Training, Retirement in Effort to Bypass Congress

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Did the state just formally recognize the power the volunteer forces seized for themselves? Or did it find a clever way to take command?and take names?

    Yes.

    1. Anyone want to bet the leaders of these groups start disappearing in a few weeks?

      1. If that is what is going to happen, it probably would have happened anyway.

  2. I love it when the government has to save face by pretending it still has control over these groups. “Sign an agreement that you’re actually part of the government, and we’re all good!”

    1. I find them morally reprehensible for signing such a bullshit agreement.

      1. Why? They won. The government is desperate to pretend that they aren’t an anarchistic success outside of “legitimate” government. Who cares what they sign?

        1. Mexican Army officer: “Why are there 1387 Jose Morenos on this list?!”

          Flunky: “I just brought in the list they gave me!”

          1. I very much suspect that they aren’t going to get 20,000 names that can be matched to birth certificates and ID cards.

        2. Why? They won. The government is desperate to pretend that they aren’t an anarchistic success outside of “legitimate” government.

          They already know they won though. They have no need for a corrupt government to “legitimize” what is already a fact. Fuck ’em.

          1. Except that the government, being completely and solely about control, will have nothing to do but fuck with them unless they sign the agreement pretending that the government still has a monopoly on force. Yeah, it’s annoying, but the government will never, ever stop because it has nothing else to do.

            That’s sort of the problem with government.

            1. but the government will never, ever stop because it has nothing else to do.

              Fucking shit, Epi, you’ve just made this the most depressing day I’ve had in weeks.

              1. Another day ruined! My track record continues!

              2. Well, the government does, of course, have other things it could be doing but since the most important thing for government is to preserve power this takes precedence over all else.

              3. you’ve just made this the most depressing day I’ve had in weeks.

                Really? I figured everyone here had fully internalized that by now.

            2. You nailed that one, Epi.

  3. I would be very pleasantly surprised if it weren’t the latter.

  4. Isn’t this ultimately a Volunteer Police Force? How is this any different than the common US institution of the Volunteer Fire Department?

    Gun grabbing fears aside, I think it’s a good thing. Rogue operations, unsanctioned by the local populace, ultimately lack oversight and would not be held accountable for their mistakes. Our common complaint about our unionized Police forces is a generally lack of accountability. But truly rogue operations are accountable to no one.

    1. It was the vacuum of creditable forces that grew these people. The cops and army were all either corrupt or incompetent, yet somehow a bunch of dudes with rifles and trucks managed to fight the cartels and win.

      In a sense these people are accountable to no one, but they’ve also already proven themselves better at doing violence than the forces that you claim are going to hold them accountable.

      Which is the monarchist/anarchist point. The only thing that can truly hold people accountable is society, which is often very distinct from government. So I’m kind of saddened to see these guys give in to the fiction, even though it is probably the best result in the current space, because the government wasn’t going to let them effectively secede.

      1. They simply formed their own local government.

        1. In a sense. I haven’t read anywhere where they were “administering justice” other than fighting the cartels and disarming local cops who had not done anything to prevent violence. Which is, to me, a sign that they had no intention of governing.

        2. Yep. Government is nothing more than a group of men with the last word in violence.

        3. Not remotely. They formed a club/gang. There was no consent/input from the other citizens. Citizen approval of the gang’s actions is irrelevant. It’s irrelevant because when it turns to disapproval, the gang has very limited incentive to respect that.

          1. Consent? Was there “consent” for the previous government that did jack and shit?

            I think somebody’s terrified of people acting in their best interests.

            1. I’m not talking about the reasonableness of individuals to form and adjunct to the local police force when that force is overwhelmed/understaffed/corrupt. I’m talking about the oversight of such an adjunct.

              This agreement formalizes some oversight.

              Is your claim that oversight is unnecessary?

              1. Oversight? What the fuck are you babbling about? Do you actually suffer from the delusion that there is oversight now?

                Your terror of non-centrally-controlled, well, anything seems to have turned your brains to mush.

                1. Your terror of non-centrally-controlled, well, anything seems to have turned your brains to mush.

                  You’re inability to think past the moment is humorous. And your ability to project your fears onto others is absolute.

                  Not ONE FUCKING TIME did I even remotely project fear or claim this was absolutely necessary.

                  FFS, you’re a worse sockpuppet than Tony or Shreek. One can really count on you to do nothing but see everything as anarchy or bust.

                  Fucking hopeless.

                  1. Now that’s quality butthurt.

                    1. Now that’s quality butthurt.

                      Now that’s quality deflection. Heaven forbid someone throw bombs in your direction.

                    2. Bombs?!? Ha, don’t flatter yourself. You throw the equivalent of wet farts, internet TUFF GAI. But please keep the butthurt coming; it’s quite delicious.

                    3. I’ll defer to Warty’s opinion on that one, thank you very much.

              2. This agreement formalizes some oversight.

                Is your claim that oversight is unnecessary?

                Who oversees the overseers?

                Who oversees the overseer’s overseers?

                Who oversees the overseers overseer’s overseers?

                Who oversees the overseers overseers overseer’s overseers?

                1. Who oversees the overseers overseers overseer’s overseers?

                  Not particularly sure what you’re arguing there. I’m not claiming that process cures all. I’m only claiming that the absence of process eventually does more harm than good, so the introduction of process to these citizen militias has merit.

                  1. How do you know the militias didn’t have some “process” of their own?

              3. Oversight from whom? You run into the same problem with any plans for authority: who watches the watcher? Let’s say the army watches over the police. Who watches the army?

                At least this situation is a fundamental recognition of self-defense because not requiring oversight by others, or delegating ultimate defense duties, is the only way to solve that infinite regression problem.

            2. There was a constitution. Social contract and all that.

              And this constitution wasn’t written by a bunch of dead white guys, but by a bunch of dead Latino guys!

          2. Police departments are nothing more than a club/gang. They don’t have any incentive to respect the citizens’ disapproval because they can just beat them to death and be rewarded with a paid vacation.

          3. Nothing in your post contradicted what Francisco said.

          4. This is different than a government how?

          5. There was no consent/input from the other citizens.

            Because nobody has ever governed without consent or input of their subjects?

          6. There was no consent/input from the other citizens.

            No consent from citizens? They were the citizens. And they formed a government to protect their rights.

            If it turns to disapproval, other citizens will do the same…until there is an established last word in force.

          7. So you believe that one cannot call the ruling group “government” unless they have consent/input from the citizens? Government is that group of individuals that have a monopoly on force in a given society or region. Period.

            These guys definitely formed a local government.

            1. Government is that group of individuals that have a monopoly on force in a given society or region. Period.

              Gangs aren’t inherently monopolistic.

              1. They kicked out the cops. I think that gives them the monopoly on organized violence.

                1. Local monopoly that is.

            2. These guys definitely formed a local government.

              Right, because right they decided to fight back against the cartels, they also decided to start filling in pot holes and accepting applications for business licenses. Are you another one of these turds that thinks that when more than 2 people get together it somehow magically becomes a government?

              1. If those two people have the monopoly on force, then yes.

                Are you another one of these turds that thinks that only government can fill in pot holes and that the existence of a government of some sort requires that businesses be licensed by said government?

              2. Right, because right they decided to fight back against the cartels, they also decided to start filling in pot holes and accepting applications for business licenses.

                The government around here doesn’t fill in potholes, but they’re sure to send in guys with guns whenever there is violence.

                Because that’s all government is: the guys with the last word in violence.

                How can they fix potholes? Because the fact that they have the last word in violence means they can force people to pay taxes and then use that money to fix potholes.

                How can they require business licenses? Because the fact that they have the last word in violence means they can force the business to shut down if they don’t pay up.

                When you have a group of people with the last word in violence, they become government.

                Everything that government does is based upon having the last word in violence.

                1. Thanks – you phrased a response much more eloquently than I did…

              3. Are you another one of these turds that thinks that when more than 2 people get together it somehow magically becomes a government?

                Are you one of these turds that thinks that there is something magical about a government that makes it truly different from other types of armed gangs?

              4. Right, because right they decided to fight back against the cartels, they also decided to start filling in pot holes and accepting applications for business licenses.

                The vast majority of governments throughout history have had nothing to do with fixing potholes or licensing businesses. Government is an organization with a monopoly on violence in a given territory. That’s it.

            3. If most of them go back to whatever they were doing and ignore what other citizens do after they get rid of the cartels, you could hardly call them a “ruling group”. If some remain as a gang and start coercing everybody else, this will be the new “cartel”, again easily dealt with by people forming another militia to take them down a peg. Most people don’t have time to do gang henchman stuff full time.

      2. people accountable is society

        WTF does that mean? Does that mean when the Magnificent Seven execute an innocent, “society” should form the “Magnificent Eight” to round up the Seven?

        Looks, sooner or later, the rule of law, i.e. bureaucracy and process, does amount to something. Without that, there’s no mechanism for “society” to deal with accountability that doesn’t devolve into Might Is Right.

        1. Nope. Sorry. Either the community values individual rights or not. The codification and the enforcement thereof are distractions.

          1. To expand, look at the Fugitive Slave Act, either you followed the law as agreed to by the group, or you hid slaves as you (and probably your community) viewed them as humans not to be hunted. The law doesn’t care about right, nor do its enforcers.

        2. Gangs are all government is, and no amount of legal fictions can change that fundamental fact. These people were fed up with the gangs that were abusing them, so they formed their own gang, and now another gang is pretending that gang is part of their gang.

          And, yes, if this gang starts getting out of hand, I think the Michoacanos will form more gangs and take care of the problem.

          GIS for Michoacano. So they’re Texas of Mexico, apparently.

        3. Does that mean when the Magnificent Seven execute an innocent, “society” should form the “Magnificent Eight” to round up the Seven?

          Yes, exactly that. Just like when a ruling government of any kind becomes more oppressive than people are willing to tolerate, people get together and remove that government.

      3. s/monarchist/monarchist

        That’s embarrassing.

        1. ^^ Even more embarrassing. :-p

          1. Goddammit.
            MINARCHIST

            The Pentavirate keeps hacking my posts.

  5. Jesse – that is an alt-text Win for the Ages

  6. You look like you’ve never seen a severed human head on a tortoise before.

  7. Between this, and the strains of the oil boom in the Northern Plains, I’m reminded lately of the 1976 film “Vigilante Force.” If you like modern-day westerns made for the drive-in circuit, this is a good one.

    1. Looks like it could benefit from Lee Marvin.

  8. Did they get Zoro to sign? If so, did he do so with a pen, or just make a trademark Z with his sword?

  9. I enjoyed your book Walker.

    1. Ahem.

      “Walker, you magnificent bastard! I read your book!”

      1. I know you’re making a cultural reference I should be familiar with, but I have no clue what it is. I’m sorry to disappoint.

          1. “Rommel… you magnificent bastard, I read your BOOK! ” ? George S. Patton

              1. Hah. Thanks. I’ll tuck the reference away for later.

  10. This is a fucking trap if I’ve ever seen one. If they’re really dumb enough to fall for it they’ll have cartel assholes and soldiers targeting their families in weeks, backed by corrupt asshole government stooges.

    They shouldn’t have signed anything, told the government to go fuck itself, and kept on keeping on.

    1. It was probably the roads.

  11. …don’t have to show you no stinkin’ badges!

  12. So, you and a group of like-minded citizens living in, say, Maricopa County take up arms because Joe Arpaio has started shooting people down in the streets, and secure your town against the sheriff department.

    When the US Army and the FBI finally get down there in enough numbers to do something, they formally deputize you as auxiliaries while they go on trying to ferret Arpaio’s henchment out of the rest of the county. Has the US Federal Government formally recognized your takeover of your town? Are they trying to set you up to be arrested? Or is it just that you both have a common enemy, and official status is a convenient way to avoid legal ambiguity?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.