Fed up with constant robberies and violent assaults, the residents of a working-class Chihuahua City neighborhood undertook direct action to prevent further crime. According to a local press story, about 30 residents of the Sol de Oriente section of the city recently armed themselves with machetes, baseball bats and other weapons and then mounted nighttime street patrols to keep delinquents away.
Interviewed by a reporter, the neighbors vowed to get rough with criminals, and apparently with the blessing of the local cops.
“The police that have come have told us that there are not enough personnel to cover this zone and recommended to us that we take justice into our own hands and that is what we are going to do,” an unidentified resident or group of residents was quoted “We are going to kill the first bad one we get our hands on and we are going to throw him out into the field that is next to here, just like we were asked to do.”
Published news and photos of the Sol de Oriente anti-crime patrol produced an almost immediate reaction, though far from what the residents likely had in mind. On Monday, September 5, members of the “Urbilocos” street gang reportedly fired gunshots in the neighborhood, in an apparent effort to intimidate residents who had earlier defended their neighborhood and then had spoken out to the press; five families fled their homes fearing for their lives.
An estimated 60 percent of Sol de Oriente’s residents are single mothers who work in the local maquiladora industry that manufactures and exports products for consumption in the US and other nations. Many must leave their homes unattended while working long hours in the factory. Home robberies and even violent assaults with machetes, especially on the bi-monthly payday weekends, have inflamed the ire of residents.
Like Ciudad Juarez to the north, the so-called narco war in Chihuahua City has provided a cover for other criminal activities ranging from burglary and auto theft to extortion and kidnapping.
In just the past few days, two men were found executed on a dirt road near the Aquiles Serdan state prison; four people were shot at Los Reyes Garibaldi bar, with one of the victims dying; and multiple bomb threats forced the evacuation of State Secondary School 3043 as well as Federal Electricity Commission offices. Explosives were not detonated or found at any of the threatened sites.
In the Sol de Oriente neighborhood, meanwhile, residents demand that a police command post be built near their homes.
Sources: El Heraldo de Chihuahua, September 4 and 6, 2011. Articles by Jose Manuel Ruiz. Lapolaka.com, September 4 and 6, 2011. El Diario de Chihuahua, September 5 and 6, 2011.
Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico
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