One of the states with the highest levels of violence in Mexico is Guerrero. Located in the southern region of the nation, Guerrero presents precarious conditions for the upcoming democratic elections. The condition of this state comes from the conflict between drug cartels, self-defense groups, and the local authorities. Although this environment appears irreversible, there is evidence that the dynamics of this region are changing due to external factors.
The authorities in Guerrero have demonstrated their inability to protect journalists. In the Mexican newspaper Proceso, Ezequiel Flores Contreras reported how a group of journalists organized a public demonstration in the city of Chilpancingo to demand justice for the assassination of their colleagues. According to the local reporter, Hector Astudillo Flores, the state government has also failed to guarantee their protection, which has forced them to search for other security alternatives. During this public event, Astudillo Flores commented that they negotiated the liberation of two of their co-workers with a local self-defense group from the community of Petaquillas (these armed groups are also known as Autodefensas). On the other hand, the armed group rationalized the kidnapping of these individuals by arguing that they did not have legal identifications to investigate in their community. This event unfolded while the state authorities were witnessing the capturing of the two journalists. Astudillo Flores noted that the state government connected this self-defense group with a local drug trafficking organization. The classification of this group as a criminal syndicate should have forced the local authorities from Petaquilla to stop the kidnapping, but they decided to remain indifferent.
The local authorities in Guerrero are facing a complex environment. To begin, these authorities are working in the middle of a conflict between at least six national criminal organizations and thirteen local criminal gangs. Among these groups are the infamous Sinaloa Cartel and the Cartel Jalisco New Generation. Moreover, the state has experienced the emerging of self-defense groups in different communities, which were characterized as criminal by officials as mentioned previously. The violence coming from these actors have influenced more than 190 politicians to resign from their positions. A condition that has left communities such as Chilapa without a mayor.
Even though the environment in Guerrero seems irreversible, it appears that something is changing. The Mexican public learned some shocking news about the production of drugs in this region. According to the local newspaper El Sur, the campesinos that harvest poppy plants (or Amapola) in this region could not sell their product to the Sinaloa Cartel. At first, the campesinos blamed the increasing levels of violence for the inability of this criminal syndicate to approach their communities. However, the representatives from the Sinaloa Cartel explained to them that a new synthetic drug known as fentanillo was introduced to the United States, which was cheaper to produce for their group. While this development could be described as a positive thread, the locals are facing a difficult dilemma. Although they understand that they are breaking the law, they recognize that they do not have other alternatives. A local producer commented, “many believe that we have a lot of money but our condition is different, we live in poverty.” At the same time, these campesinos perceived that this event could influence individuals to engage in other criminal activities such as kidnappings and extortions.
The condition that these communities are facing was commented by the presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO). During a presentation in the University of the Tecnologico de Monterrey, AMLO noted how the Mexican current anti-narcotic strategy is failing to recognize the reality of the production of drugs. In his analysis, he mentioned how campesinos without educational or professional opportunities are forced to engage in the production of heroin to survive.
The state of Guerrero represents a critical case for the Mexican government. There are multiple criminal organizations that must be disarticulated for the prosperity of the local democratic institutions. At the same time, any anti-narcotic operation must recognize that the destruction of poppy fields do not represent a long-term solution.