In Mexico a local gang leader’s mother was kidnapped this week, in response to the abduction of a group of young men.  The vigilantes are now proposing a prisoner exchange in order to the free their loved ones.

Mexico has a history of drug related violence and police corruption, with criminals using kidnapping as a steady source of income for years.  Contrary to common perceptions, however, kidnapping in Mexico is not a crime reserved for the wealthy.  Increasingly, Mexico’s working class has been targeted by abductors looking to make a quick buck.  In 2013, 1,698 kidnappings were officially reported in Mexico, with countless more going on without police involvement to record them.

The residents of San Miguel Totolapan, a small village in southern Mexico, decided to take matters into their own hands after what they claim is years of the gang leader, called “El Tequilero,” and his militant group operating with impunity within the region.  El Tequilero, whose real name is Raybel Jacobo de Almonte, has been on the run from law enforcement for weeks now.  A late November effort involving helicopters to search the mountainous area he is said to be hiding out in produced no results.

The townspeople released two videos addressing El Tequilero and his gang.  In the videos, many of the villagers can be seen brandishing rifles and shotguns; some have chosen to wear masks to conceal their identities.

“In return for my husband’s life, I will deliver your mother,” one woman said in the first of two videos.

“We have your mother here, mister known as El Tequilero,” said Yadira Guillermo Garcia in the same video. Her husband, an engineer, was abducted by the gang. “I request an exchange…. I want him safe and sound.”

In a second video, more townspeople explain that they have “suffered for too long” from the violence El Tequilero and his gang have wrought upon the region.

“They have humiliated us, they have killed our families and we won’t let it happen again,” one of the men in masks read to the camera.