Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Limpieza Social

The Independent is the first UK quality to have picked up on Guatemala's recent vigilante spree.

As with earlier external media commentary, an explicit link is being drawn between this resurgent form of extra-judicial violence and the death squads of the civil war period. By implication, the murdered mareros are also victims of a shadowy sub-state apparatus (and all of Guatemala's problems can be securely derived from its history of right-wing politics and the lasting reign of impunidad).

Yet the article concludes by referring to the 'Social Cleansing of the Town' group in San Lucas Toliman, whose activities surely suggest something more akin to a grass-roots response to the erosion of local state authority by organised criminals.

Violence is much more endemic in Guatemala, but is it really surprising that this wave of killings is benefitting from a degree of popular support? I suspect that many people in the UK would sympathise with vigilantes targeting cells of violent extremists, even if it could be shown that they were being loosely sponsored by the state. (In Spain for example, a death squad which liquidated a number of suspected Basque terrorists was ultimately shown to have links to the socialist government of Felipe González .)

In Central America the maras are taken to represent an "enemy within" that, by virtue of standing outside and in opposition to the body politic, might be said to have renounced the protections enjoyed by other citizens. It sounds harsh and it is, but it's also a line that some Western governments have been consistently pursuing themselves, albeit in more sophisticated (and deniable) ways.

1 comment:

Mathias said...

More power to them I say. If they have paid off Government officials then good riddance to them. The only problem you have is the power vaccuum left by eliminating them, and if they found out who was aiding the vigilantes they will target them.