Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, November 14, 2016

Citizen justice

Three years ago, organized vigilantes made headlines in Mexico as they tried to compensate for the inability of the state to protect citizens from violent criminals.

The state still seems to have inadequate power to deal with violent crime. Vigilantes are once again in the news. The report doesn't suggest organized efforts, but "lone wolf" actors.

So, is the capacity of the state inadequate? Is the criminal justice system bogged down? Are the police and the army involved? Are there other countries with problems like this? Are there other countries with vigilantes? How does this affect political legitimacy?

Mexico's 'avengers' backed by public sick of crime and lack of punishment
It was still dark when four men boarded the packed commuter bus heading for Mexico City and ordered the passengers to hand over their valuables.

They gathered up mobile phones and wallets, but as they prepared to leave near the town of Toluca, one passenger stood up, drew a pistol and shot the four assailants, killing their leader instantly.

The three injured robbers stumbled off the bus, but the gunman followed them out and shot them dead at the roadside. Then he returned to the bus, handed back the passengers’ belongings and disappeared into the darkness…

[M]any Mexicans – fed up with crime, corruption and impunity – took to social media to praise the unidentified killer. None of the bus passengers have offered information to police, saying it was too dark to see him clearly.

The case is just the latest of a spate of vigilante killings in Mexico…

Gema Santamaría, a sociologist at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, said… “Public approval of the justiciero has to do with the deep discontent over how the justice system and security services work in Mexico,”…

“People have less patience and expect less from the government,” said Gerardo Priego Tapía, a former politician now directing an anti-kidnap group in Tabasco state. “This is prompting people to defend themselves and fight back.”

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