Mexican town resorts to mob justice

Posted by: Phineas on September 24, 2010 at 2:00 pm

With the authorities unable to protect them, the residents of a small town in the state of Chihuahua that has suffered an average of three kidnappings per week finally had enough:

Ascension is a farming community of some 15,000 people, about 100 miles south of the border with New Mexico. In the past two years, kidnapping and extortion have been rampant.

“Our problems with public security have spoiled our progress in this town,” says Rafael Camarillo, the outgoing mayor.

The public fury happened Tuesday when an armed group allegedly kidnapped a 16-year-old girl from her family’s seafood restaurant. The kidnappers escaped down a gravel road, and word of the missing girl spread quickly.

Soon, a group of about 200 residents began the chase. Three of the alleged kidnappers were captured by the Mexican military, who have a presence in the town.

Three others fled into a nearby cotton field, where one was later found dead. The other two were hunted down and beaten by the mob from Ascension.

“When they found them, it was a direct aggression,” says Ignacio Rodriguez, a local kitchen-cabinet maker who was elected to head city council next month.

The girl was rescued unharmed by the residents.

Two of the kidnappers were taken by federal police to a nearby Mexican Army base, but the mob wasn’t done with them: they stormed the base, seized the kidnappers, and locked them in a hot car until they died.

Let’s be blunt: these three deaths were acts of murder. But it is both hard to sympathize with the victims and not hard to sympathize with the townsfolk. What are they supposed to do when their own government can’t or won’t protect them? The local force was so useless that the Mayor of Ascension fired them all after this incident. Corruption is rampant in the local, state, and federal police forces. At some point, the people are left with a choice: wait like sheep to be slaughtered or fight back. The people of Ascenscion made their choice.

Of course, fighting back against teenaged kidnappers is one thing, but striking back at heavily armed, ruthless cartels is another altogether. Mexico’s gun laws are very strict, so law-abiding citizens are effectively disarmed from the start. Yet the presence of such laws implies a clause in the social contract: in return for not bearing arms, the state promises to protect its citizens. If the government cannot do this, then the contract is broken and the state loses legitimacy. Society reverts to a state of nature and residents are forced to take justice into their own hands.

While Mexico is not yet a failed state and may never become one, the incidents at Ascension are nevertheless further signs of a fraying social fabric that, unmended, could one day fall apart.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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11 Responses to “Mexican town resorts to mob justice”


  1. Bob says:

    I thought you were going to write about them hiring seven gringo’s.

    Three kidnappings a week? What would punishment would the bad guys get from the government? I don’t condone the death by torture, but I can certainly understand the high level of frustration.

  2. Phineas says:


    I thought you were going to write about them hiring seven gringo’s.

    You know, I was sorely tempted to go looking for a picture from “The Magnificent Seven.” ;)

  3. Chris in NC says:

    Let’s be blunt: these three deaths were acts of murder.

    I wouldn’t convict any of them. No way no how. When the gov’t fails to act, citizens have to. When enough dead bodies of kidnappers pile up, the action becomes unprofitable and it will cease.

  4. Tango says:

    ….what? You mean the locales didn’t simply send a message to Hollywood asking for The Three Amigos? I’m shocked!

  5. nina says:

    When you see mob rule in a country that country has failed because the governmental structure has failed.Mexico is in a civil war. This follows years of government corruption at the local and national level. The government worked with the narcos and they still do. Mexico is a very rich country in natural resources. Second silver producer in the world.Has oil and many multinational companies with factories. All the profits are stolen by the corrupt government and the elite. They keep an apartheid system where the indian majority is kept ignorant and suppressed.The white people control everything from the TV to major companies. I don’t blame these people .

  6. Carlos says:

    The outlaws (including the government) have to learn that if the primary function of government, protecting its citizens, is not happening, those citizens have every right to protect themselves in whatever way they see fit.

    As an aside, the same goes for our government. If they will not protect our citizens along the border from the ongoing invasion, those citizens have every right to protect themselves however they see fit.

  7. Jo says:

    Good for these people. I applaud them. And good riddance to the scum criminals who ended up dead. If the authorities are becoming increasingly powerless there, the people will have to rise up. And let’s look at our own increasing loss of constitutional rights: What do we do if The One succeeds in disarming us???

  8. MissJean says:

    I disagree with nina about the country failing. Mob rule has happened more than once in the US, and yet here we still are. Mob rule means one of two things: 1) citizens feel they’ve got no other recourse but to take justice in their own hands, or 2) citizens feel that they can get away with anything because the authorities are helpless. The former is mob justice; the latter is anarchy and riot.

    If anything, it sounds like the people of Ascensión are attempting to take back their town from the anarchists.

  9. MissJean says:

    Of course, if the police does their job, there can also be a mob:


    For background, the city and surrounding area of Port Huron, Michigan, has been shocked in the last year by a spike in violent crime. Everyone expected a rise in breaking-and-entering due to high unemployment and abandoned homes. But increasingly it’s extremely violent attacks by near-strangers.

  10. nina says:

    Miss jean take a trip to rural mexico. The country is in a civil war and destroyed. Bring an interpreter if you don’y speak spanish.