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Armed vigilantes are taking the law into their own hands in Mexico’s second city

July 13, 2016

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The environmental activists and former guerrilla Raul Muñoz leads El Salto’s biggest vigilante group.

Jesús Morones, the owner of a candy shop in El Salto, a rugged industrial area on the southeastern fringe of the Guadalajara metropolitan area, says he’s been robbed at gunpoint eight times.

“Last time they beat me and locked me and my family in here for 10 minutes while they took what they wanted. They were looking for money but they even took a box of chocolates to snack on afterwards,” he says. “My son was crying and one of the bastards even grabbed my wife’s buttocks.”

With the police providing little or no protection against this kind of violent crime, inhabitants of Guadalajara’s forgotten outskirts have begun forming vigilante groups known as autodefensas, or self-defense squads. Vigilantes have famously fought drug gangs in the nearby states of Michoacán and Guerrero in recent years, but their emergence in the major city of Guadalajara, the capital of the state of Jalisco, is more recent and hardly reported.

Gazing out over El Salto’s scorched scrubland as he patrols the dirt roads of his rundown neighborhood, Raúl Muñoz, a 59-year-old former guerrilla, says he leads the largest of 27 autodefensa cells scattered across the town.

Constantly wary of halcones, or hawks, as cartel lookouts are known, Muñoz points out several black pickup trucks with tinted windows. He says they probably belong to members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, or CJNG in Spanish. He adds that the cartel has “complete control” of El Salto and the neighboring municipality of Tlajomulco…

Click here to read this feature in full at VICE News.

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