Fears that Mexico’s controversial anti-narco “community police” groups could themselves be co-opted by the warring cartels appear to be vindicated by recent grim events in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Two rival networks are struggling for control of the main road linking Acapulco on the Pacific with the inland state capital Chilpancingo—dubbed the “heroin highway,” as it is a main artery for delivering the illicit product of the mountains to exit-ports on the coast.
Over the past weeks, over 20 people have been killed in fighting between the Union of Pueblos and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG) and the United Front for the Security and Development of the State of Guerrero (FUSDEG), according to newspaper Milenio.
Predictably, both sides accuse the other of being co-opted by the cartels. UPOEG leader Bruno Plácido accuses FUSDEG of involvement with local narco-gang Los Ardillos. Salvador Alanís of FUSDEG in turn accuses UPOEG of being in league with the Sur Sierra Unida cartel. Petaquillas, Cajelitos and several other pueblos along the 70-kilometer stretch of highway are said to be divided into hostile camps.
In the pueblo of Tierra Colorada, authorities have filed a complaint with the Guerrero state prosecutor, the Fiscalía General, accusing FUSDEG militants of illegally detaining and torturing their opponents, local newspaper El Sur reports.
An analysis on InSight Crime website, which monitors organized crime in Latin America, sees an inevitability to the narco-cooptation of the anti-narco vigilantes: “More than half of all of the heroin produced in Mexico is produced in the mountains of Guerrero, much of it in clandestine ‘gardens’ tended by humble farmers with few other options.
As the heroin market in the United States has boomed, so has the heroin business in Guerrero, and estimates of the number of criminal groups vying for a share have been as high as 50. It is hard for even the most well-meaning of organizations to resist…such market forces.”