Vigilante Killings More Common in Crime-Plagued Mexico

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Four men boarded a 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, one passenger stood up, drew a pistol and shot the four assailants, killing them all, the Guardian reports. Police have deployed hundreds of officers in search of the so-called justiciero – or avenger. Many Mexicans – fed up with crime, corruption and impunity – took to social media to praise the unidentified killer. The case is the latest of a spate of vigilante killings in Mexico. One taxi driver shot dead two assailants trying to rob him. Elsewhere, a witness to the armed robbery of a seafood delivery driver followed and shot at the two suspects fleeing on a motorcycle, injuring one of them.

Gema Santamaría, a sociologist at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, said that vigilante murders are a relatively new development. “Public approval of the justiciero has to do with the deep discontent over how the justice system and security services work in Mexico,” she said. Surveys have shown 46 percent of Mexicans approve of vigilante acts, while some 80 percent approve of “harsher punishments” to deter crime, even if that means police abuse. An estimated 98 percent of crimes in Mexico go unpunished and 93 percent of crimes are not even reported. Some expect the “avenger” trend to continue, especially as stories of ordinary citizens meting out crude justice get attention on social media. “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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