After two years of declines, homicides in Mexico have seen a disconcerting increase.

That uptick in deadly violence is in part a result of the ongoing fragmentation of Mexico’s drug cartels and criminal groups, and nowhere has that dynamic been more prominent than in southwest Mexico.

The region is a focal point for drug production — opium in Guerrero, and methamphetamine and marijuana in Michoacan — and its location as a remote outpost on Mexico’s west coast make it a prime area for drug trafficking and other illicit activities.

The Mexican government has long been unresponsive to security concerns in the area, and citizens there have, in recent years, stepped into provide security the state could not or would not provide.

But as time has gone on, some of those groups appear to have slipped into the very criminality they sought to fight.

“The self-defense forces originated because of the frustration with the Mexican government,” which has largely failed to provide security and economic development in parts of Mexico, “particularly in the rural areas,” Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, told Business Insider.

Mexico community police autodefensas
A boy walks past members of the “community Police,” run by local residents to police their communities, as they stand guard in the town of Cruz Grande, in the Costa Chica region of the southern state of Guerrero, January 30, 2013.


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