The Mexican Fuenteovejuna
Residents of Ascensión, Chihuahua Expel the Local Police
By Fernando León
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
October 2, 2010
On Thursday, September 22, the Mexican press reported on an event that could show a little of the future that awaits many cities overwhelmed by the violence generated by president Felipe Calderón’s drug war. Residents of the town of Ascensión, Chihuahua decided they had enough with the lack of governmental response to the security problems that they have been facing for several months, along with the constant threat of the military and the impunity it enjoys. The residents organized themselves and decided that from now on their security would depend on themselves.
The town of Ascensión, Chihuahua, based in the municipality of the same name and located 192 kilometers south east of Ciudad Juárez, has been hit by a wave of kidnappings in the last few months. Last week, the last one ended with the death of two kidnappers at the hands of the people. Before the kidnapping of a 17 year old, the residents overtook the agressors and managed to free the young man while making a citizen’s arrest of five of the eight alledged kidnappers. Three of the kidnappers were later arrested by military personnel. However, the other two became the target of the residents’ helplessness with the constant threat that they face. The two kidnappers died in the custody of the Federal Police, as they were prevented from receiving medical attention after the people tried to lynch them.
The case is relevant in that the Mexican population suffers mainly in the northern border region of the country—although that is not to say that the violence from Calderón’s war has not affected other regions and states in the country. And that’s why, with the collusion of the “authorities” with criminal organizations—which is the same but not equal to that in the North—opting for community autonomy does not seem so outlandish. The war that the country suffers from doesn’t have support from anyone other than the governmental class, big business, and the criminal groups benefiting from it. And this is demonstrated when cases like Ascensión explode.
Similarly, the drug war that has engulfed the country since 2006 has served as a pretext for military incursions in different parts of the country. The impunity for military and human rights abuses has turned the military into another one of the cartels that exist in the country. And the town of Ascension is no exception.
Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, a native journalist of Ascensión was recently exiled to the United States due to death threats from military personnel in the region. For a long time Emilio had reported on military abuses of the local population. In his hometown there have been frequent abuses committed by the military since they participated in Joint Operation Chihuahua in 2008. The presence of at least 10,000 soldiers in the streets of the region, walking with impunity, has created more fear in the population.
In June 2008, Alma, a friend of Gutiérrez Soto, personally suffered from Calderón’s drug war. Alma, a 16 year old single mother at the time, received a “visit” at her home by military personnel from the Puerto Palomas de Villa detachment. The honorable and intoxicated Mexican soldiers were looking for drugs that Alma “hid” in her “four meter by four meter room, where there was only a table, two chairs, a bed, a storage room, and scarce supplies,” Gutiérrez Soto reported. When a higher-ranking officer entered the room and ordered the withdrawal of his subordinates, Alma was raped—a recurring event in this bicentennial war of the Calderón administration. Gutiérrez Soto himself had experienced a visit by the military due to his reports. The constant threat finally made him flee his home town. However, the stories of these military visits do not always reach the media, and hundreds of cases have stayed in the nightmares of the residents who have suffered them.
Faced with the violence and impunity of the military and criminal organizations, the people of Ascension demonstrated that they didn’t have to keep depending on the “authorities” to offer them security. When Ascensión residents asked the “authorities” for help they didn’t get it. However, when they decided to take justice into their own hands they received a visit from hundreds of soldiers and federal police. What is clear here is that the recent lynching was just an expression of what happened later. They don’t trust the authorities anymore, and from now on, the town is without any official police. Neighbors take care of themselves without intermediaries.
Now their security depends on them, as demonstrated in Tepoztlán, Morelos between 1995-1999, in Tlalnepantla , Morelos in 2004, in Juchitán, Oaxaca in 1982, in San Juan Copala, Oaxaca since 2006, in San Luis Acatlán, Guerrero with community police since 1995, and in the autonomous municipalities of Chiapas since 1994, which have a population of more than 400,000 people. Organized citizens can be much more effective than imposed police “authorities” who are oblivious to the needs of the local people.
Despite there being so many different cases in very distinct contexts, the recent case of autonomous security in Ascensión is an expression of what the Calderón’s war violence can create. With the vulnerability of the citizens to the abuses by criminal groups, police, and the military, they organized among themselves to decided what is best for themselves.
Who kicked out the police of Ascension?
Who is Ascension?
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