Vigilantes Seize Town: Why Has ‘Community Police’ Taken Over The Town of Tierra Colorado in Mexico?

By Kahlil Thomas on March 28, 2013 10:48 AM EDT

Mexico Violence
A vigilante group have taken over the town of Tierra Colorado to prevent violence and extortion that has become common place among the drug cartels in Mexico. (Photo: Reuters)

Hundreds of armed vigilantes have taken control of a town near a major highway in Mexico.

More than 1,500 members of the "community police" in the Mexican town Tierra Colorado has taken over the city, even going as far as arresting police officers that they believe to be part of organized crime in the area. Tierra Colorado sits on the highway connecting Mexico City to Acapulco.

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The incident in Tierra Colorado began after the leader of the group, Guadalupe Quinones Carbajal was allegedly killed on the behalf of local organized crime groups. His body was dumped in a nearby town on Monday. One of the 12 arrests the vigilantes made was the former director of public security in the town who they believe participated in the killing of Carbajal. Those arrested were handed over to the state prosecutors who agreed to investigate those people's links to organized crime.

A group of tourists that was heading to the beach in the area was injured on Tuesday after not stopping at a roadblock that was set up by the vigilantes. After not stopping, the armed "community police" members opened fire on his car. He was not seriously hurt.

"We have besieged the municipality, because here criminals operate with impunity in broad daylight, in view of the municipal authorities. We have detained the director of public security because he is involved with criminals and he knows who killed our commander," said Bruno Placido Valerio, a spokesman for the vigilante group.

Placido also said that the vigilante group has begun searching homes in the town and have seized drugs from a few of the searched homes.

Tierra Colorado is home to around 20,000 people and at least 2,000 civilians are beloved to have fled the city according to the Daily Mail.

The group has said that they are fighting violence, kidnappings and extortions carried out by local drug cartels. Concerns have surfaced from some within the community that the human rights of some of the people that are detained may have been violated and that the vigilantes may be cooperating with some of the same criminals that are fighting against.

Due to their admittance that they cannot enforce proper public safety in rural areas of Mexico, officials have largely tolerated vigilante groups and accepted that they do exist and they could help them in the violent struggle between drug factions.

In the last six years, over 70,000 have died due to drug-related violence in Mexico due to the war for drug smuggling routes around the Pacific coast. One of the masked vigilantes expressed what they hope to accomplish by their action.

"They kill, extort, rape. You do know if they are drugs dealers, thugs, who want to grab everything."

"We want to return peace and tranquility to the entire population. Only the people can restore order."

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