December 17, 2016 7:17:07 am
Armed residents of a community in southern Mexico on Friday released 20 suspected criminals they had taken captive in a standoff with a local drug gang leader who they accused of kidnapping and extorting townsfolk. The release came with the mediation of authorities in Guerrero state.
Roberto Alvarez Heredia, spokesman for the Guerrero Coordinating group that brings together state and federal security forces, said 14 of the captives were turned over to their families, while only four were handed over to prosecutors for possible ties to drug traffickers.
The strange standoff emerged after residents of Totolapan, tired of kidnappings, extortion and killings, formed a vigilante group and seized the 20 people as well as Mrs. de Almonte Salgado, mother of local drug gang boss Raybel Jacobo de Almonte, known as “El Tequilero.”
They then posted videos offering to release El Tequilero’s mother in exchange for Isauro de Paz Duque, a construction engineer abducted the previous day by the gang in an apparent extortion attempt.
The tactic apparently worked and a worried-looking de Paz Duque was released Wednesday night in the town square. Townsfolk then turned de Almonte Salgado over to state police, who apparently handed the humbly dressed woman over to the gang. The exchange was recorded on a video shot by Guerrero state human rights officials.
On Friday, Totolapan residents released the 20 remaining captives.
The state government had sent about 220 soldiers and police to try to defuse the situation in Totolapan, which has been effectively controlled for years by the Tequileros’ gang. The region is a hotbed of opium-growing.
Government officials said they didn’t negotiate with El Tequilero, who is a fugitive.
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