Ioan Grillo
Time Magazine
February 21, 2009

Graphic photos of the alleged thief’s corpse were splashed over the front pages of Mexican tabloids beneath headlines such as “Dead Rat” and “Military Justice.” The confessed shooter, retired general Alejandro Flores, was widely hailed as a hero for firing at the 30-year-old man who had tried to force his way into the military man’s Mexico City home. “Of course he did the right thing,” wrote Felipe Alcocer in one on-line forum on the incident. “I wish everyone would act in the same way and get rid of this anti-social scum.”

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Given Mexico’s widespread breakdown in security, the praise for Flores’ Feb. 5 act of self-defense is unsurprising. The conviction rate in the thousands of murders and kidnappings afflicting the nation every year is estimated to be as low as 5%. Women and children are also increasingly among those killed by criminal gangs. And the limits on the legal system’s ability to stem the tide of violent crime has produced a growing, shadowy movement for vigilante justice. In recent months, at least three new clandestine groups have promised to hunt down and murder criminals to help restore order. As in the killing of the alleged thief by Flores, such groups have been cheered on in public forums. “My sincerest congratulations to these brave men with their courage and determination,” wrote a reader of Mexican newspaper Milenio. “God help them with their noble cause.” (See images of Mexico’s drug wars)

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