The town of Xaltianguis, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, once a peaceful farming community one hour outside of Acapulco, became a battleground where drug traffickers, extortionists, and kidnappers were king. Following the drug trade routes to the United States, no one dared get in their way. Citizens were frightened, as violent murders, decapitations, and kidnappings of innocent people became more frequent. There was no sense of justice; the Mexican government was either not interested in saving the lives of its own people or worse, was supplying the drug circles with rifles and other weapons, as rumored.
Then in August, over 100 women in Xaltianguis decided to take matters of justice into their own hands, to fight against the war on their community themselves and stop the needless killings. They joined ranks with the community self-defense forces that began forming all around the state in January, the Union of Peoples and Organizations of Guerrero State. The women of Xaltianguis formed the first ever all-female citizen police. Silvia Hipolito, a member of the vigilante protection group and mother of two said, “Women are brave and we are capable of defending our town.” These women have created security where there was none and have stood up to protect their town while the government pleads ignorance.
One thing is certain: the women of Xaltianguis, with their t-shirt and hat uniforms, have done an excellent job of improving the safety of their town. It takes an immeasurable amount of courage to stand up against those who have killed your brother, father, uncle. So, where is the problem? The problem is that it shouldn’t be the responsibility of the grandmothers whose children and grandchildren have been murdered and kidnapped to keep watch over a community, armed with nothing but good intentions and bullet-less rifles.
Where is the state in all of this? What role is the government really playing in these extortions and kidnappings? It is the state’s job to provide protection and security against these medieval, drug-smuggling war-mongers. These women are making progress, but it is not enough compared to the weapons and resources that the organized crime groups have. Rifles without bullets somehow lose all power and authority.
Meanwhile, instead of providing real assistance, the government claims that the citizen polices of Xaltianguis and other towns in Guerrero are illegal. Raúl Plascencia, head of Mexico’s Human Rights Commission, has even said that there is a “very thin line between these self-defense organizations and paramilitary groups.” For some reason it is hard to imagine a group of women who leave their posts to pick up their children from school and whose weapons serve a purely symbolic purpose transforming themselves into a highly structured, violent paramilitary organization. Instead of criticizing the women of Xaltianguis and other citizen police forces, the government should be more focused on helping them and fighting for justice with them, side by side.