*This small report is part of a broader piece of work on self-defense groups to be published soon
**Important updates at the bottom of the post!
Nosotros somos amantes de la vida estamos a favor de la vida y tenemos que organizarnos. No hay otra forma. // We love life, we are in favour of it, and therefore we have to organise. There is no other way (PCP activist, 2013)
On Sunday the 1st of December 2013 the PCP (Policia Ciudadana y Popular), an independent self-defense group operating in the mountain region of the state of Guerrero, Mexico, celebrated their first anniversary. GIAP were invited to the event and could directly witness the level of rootedness and the advances that this organisation has achieved during its first year of existence.
The celebrations took place in Temalacatzingo a small Náhuatl community where the PCP was constituted one year ago after being approved by the local people’s assembly. Its creation is part of an unprecedented proliferation of autonomous self-defense groups, which has interested Mexico over the last two years. The communities of dozens of indigenous municipalities are organising to protect themselves from aggressions and depredations perpetrated by criminal and paramilitary groups, to defend their fundamental rights, their territory, and experimenting with new egalitarian ways of organizing collective life and dealing with security related issues.
In many regions of Mexico the situation is frightening, heavily militarized and theatre of operations in which the army is deployed to help or even replace the police in its functions. According to the newspaper La Jornada , narcotraffic is today the fifth source of employment at national level. Locally, criminal gangs are frequently linked to the police, public institutions, judges and politicians. This allows them to operate within a regime of impunity as they carry on with their trade and terrify the population with thief, extortions, kidnapping and murders – especially in deprived rural areas. In addition to more “traditional” forms of criminality, an ambiguous “War on Drugs” is being carried out by the government (more 60.000 fatalities have been reported since December 2006), as well as new governmental programmes, which besides the neoliberal education and labour reforms have introduced a new massive extraction plan issuing hundreds of mining concessions to private (often foreign) investors all over the country.
What we want is to keep being peasants –PCP activists argue- because this is what we know and like to do. The projects that the government is introducing are for managers, not for ordinary people like us. And they are destroying our natural environment.
Since September 2012 an increasing number of communities have resorted to the use of homemade weapons and small to large caliber firearms to protect themselves from the level of violence and expropriation that goes together with these processes. The number, strength, and determination of these organisations (which in many cases have also proceeded to the arrest of federal officers accused of maintaining operative relations with the narcos) have sky rocketed the level of conflict with the state. Prudently, the Mexican government is trying to find a solution to the loss of legitimacy and credibility that the proliferation of these groups represents.
Although to make audience is mainly the military aspect of this phenomenon, which has been heavily spectacularised by the media, it is important not to let oneself influence by mainstream discourses and consider that in the most significant cases, these processes go side by side with experiments in popular self-government and the creative development of singular forms of autonomy. Indeed, groups like the PCP view their politics and mission as going beyond mere self-defense. Our movement is not military: it is political, they say. PCP organisers think that for things to change everybody should be involved in political organisation. Their aim is not to bring a new government into power, but to collectively create alternative paths from below. This is an independent, non-founded movement. And PCP members do not receive a cent for their activity.
What inspire us -told us a leading activist- is the struggle of Emiliano Zapata, the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the fight for freedom, for defending life against capitalist destruction. These are the ideas that inspire us. Our models are women like Juana Belem Gutiérrez de Mendoza, who always supported the struggle of the poor and their organisations, maintaining that we should take destiny in our hands.
After the march that took us to Temalacatzingo’s main square, the actual celebrations took place with food, live music, and speeches. Below are some pictures of the event.
**Important update: The day after the event the PCP denounced acts of provocation and aggression from the Mexican army towards people (women, men, children and elderly) who were returning to their villages after participating to the celebrations in Temalacatzingo. Please follow the LINKS 1 & 2 for more information