Borderland Beat needs no introduction, as a great and indeed heroic blog. This week, it has excelled itself. Here is an interview with an American lawyer, a member of an elite Mexican-American family that straddled the border and the law with minimal concern, who became a defence brief to the cocaine traffickers, and eventually one of them. It’s stuffed with interesting information about the precise terms of business and the premodern tribal and modern class structures involved, as well as the personal history of a man who lived the traditional gangster movie story-arc.
But by the time you get working well, you’ve already met everybody and everybody knows everybody. It’s a very small circle. Everybody knows everybody. And that’s where the problems start occurring, because before it was the drug dealer who lived and went to those restaurants, to those clubs. And the juniors and their families went to those restaurants and to those clubs–separated. When the juniors became involved, they started mixing. People didn’t like that. People from good families started getting killed. People didn’t like that.
For the first time, the heat started coming down on the government, from people that had a voice. And that’s what started this big trend of real heat. Everything started coming out to the open. Because now real people, powerful, legitimate people, were bringing in heat to tell the government, “What the hell are you doing about this problem? Now they’re sucking in our kids. Now they’re sucking in our culture. Now they’re mixing with our crowds. Put a stop to these guys.”
And that’s when things really got ugly. The military and the police and eventually the navy ripped into the drugs world and it ripped back. These days, the big theme and the only hope that’s going is the self-defence movement of village-level countergangs. Was it inspired by US counterinsurgents of the 2000s, remembered from their denied 1970s ancestors, or borrowed from their leftist enemies? The Beat goes out in the field with the people who claim to be the reasonable rebels.
They’re an increasingly powerful and deadly force in politics, and they’re developing a bloodthirsty Internet following, to some extent a network of intelligence sources, to some extent a fan base, and to some extent a noisy propaganda machine.
The state in its desperation encouraged them, and in its absence and complicity made them necessary. Now it’s worrying about the forces it created. This tells us something about the origins of those of those forces.
According to their own account, “in the 80’s and early 90’s the great wave of violence that appeared on the roads of Montaña (now known as the Tlapa-Marquelia highway) and Costa Chica (San Luis Acatlán-Marquelia) in Guerrero drove some of the communities’ residents to join forces against it. At this time, organizations and production companies, mainly in the coffee industry, were also affected because they could not safely distribute their products and economic resources.”
That is to say that the origin of the community police is in protecting themselves and their land. It is part of their [indigenous] conception of collective justice, self-organization, and even self-government. They don’t hide their faces, and they are chosen at assembly elections for merits such as honesty and respect for their community and family. The community maintains them, even though they receive support from their respective governments.
These same causes also gave rise to the Community Police of Cherán, Michoacan, and groups in other indigenous populations of the Purépecha plateau in 2011. That year, the indigenous communities of this area got organized, took up arms, and fought the illegal loggers who were backed by The Michoacán Family and Knights Templar cartels..
In that quote we have a whole variety of interesting contradictions. There’s a founding myth, protecting the peaceful traders from dangerous bandits. They’re also described as an indigenous force representing indigenous values and interests and protecting the indigenous population’s ecological resources.
However, they’re also apparently looking after the coffee business, and in some senses fighting the enemies of the state, as well as being a threat to it. As we have seen, this may be either the result of a Briggs/Templer win-the-aborigine counterinsurgency plan or a sort of echo of one in the past. The intelligent answer is that probably all of these are true to some extent, and you should keep reading that blog.