More than 100 women in the southern Mexican town of Xaltianguis have taken up arms to protect their community from organized crime groups, a local self-defense force official said Monday.
The women signed up over the past four days with the Union of Peoples and Organizations of Guerrero State, or UPOEG, Xaltianguis community self-defense force commander Miguel Angel Jimenez told reporters.
"We have an average of nine groups" of community police, with each one made up of 12 women who will work in the daytime in the neighborhoods of Xaltianguis, located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the resort city of Acapulco, Jimenez said.
The women will be trained in the use of firearms and carry the same weapons as men, Jimenez said.
The vigilante group has only about 80 firearms and the weapons are rotated among members, Jimenez said.
"I trust that the people, once they know that the women are participating," will provide more weapons, Jimenez said.
South of the border it is illegal for civilians to own firearms, despite having a version of the Second Amendment. The only people who have firearms are the police and dangerous criminals. More from cartel expert Sylvia Longmire:
Contrary to popular belief, Mexico’s constitution has its own version of our Second Amendment. However, few private citizens own firearms. Federal laws have severely restricted the ability to own and carry weapons to soldiers, police, trained bodyguards, and a few others who can make it through the miles-long gauntlet of the application process. If a Mexican citizen can survive the background checks, the mountains of paperwork, the half-dozen required personal recommendations, and the expense, they are limited to buying guns with low stopping power.
People are sick of it.
In Michoacan, dozens of people have formed self-defense groups to fight back against cartels where the government has failed.
Farmers wearing bulletproof vests and toting assault rifles ride in pick-up trucks emblazoned with the word "self-defense" to protect this rural Mexican town from a drug cartel.Naturally, the Mexican government isn't too happy about what they call "vigilantes" taking things into their own hands, but at this point, it's the only option.
The government deployed thousands of troops to the western state of Michoacan this week, but in some towns like Coalcoman, population 10,000, vigilantes are wary of putting down their weapons until they feel safe again.
"We won't drop our guard until we see results," Antonio Rodriguez, a 37-year-old avocado grower and member of the community force, told AFP.
AFP journalists saw civilians Wednesday carrying handguns, hunting rifles and even AR-15 semi-automatic rifles in the town, which lies in Tierra Caliente, a region known as a hotbed of cartel activity.
"We got tired of paying the quota," said Adriana, a 32-year-old woman working in a pharmacy.
The "cuota" is extortion money the Knights Templar cartel charges business owners, farmers, taxi drivers and even mayors.
"Anyone who didn't pay would be kidnapped and 'bang, bang,' they'd kill him," said Adriana, squeezing her finger as if pulling a trigger.