FOR THE PAST YEAR, the news from Mexico has been dominated by the extraordinary violence of the country’s ongoing drug war: the death toll in 2010 is now more than 10,000. The police appear to be powerless to rein in the heavily armed narcotics gangs, and may in fact be collaborating with them and participating in the escalating war, which has now submerged the entire country in violence.
One area, however, has resisted the rising tide of conflict. In the green hills of the Pacific coast state of Guerrero, local citizens have assembled their own police force: an indigenous justice system comprised of elected police officers and judges rather than representatives of the state government.
They’re known as La Policia Comunitaria—the Community Police—and they have been operating in Guerrero since 1995, shortly after a brutal period of violence that remains fresh in the memory of everyone who witnessed it.