Don Alejo Garza Tamez, the 77-year old property owner in Tamaulipas who defended his "rancho" near the state capital of Cd. Victoria, has now become a legend in the history of extortion during the latest chapter (2007-20??) in Mexico's war on drugs.
The story: On Saturday, November 13 of this year (2010) "Don Alejo," as he was known, received an extortion threat against his property, "rancho San Jose," a few acres of land 9 miles from Cd.Victoria, just South of South Padre Island. "Leave your property to us or we will kill you. You have 24 hours to vacate." Call the police? (are you kidding?) Give up the ranch? (No way!). Don Alejo told his employees to take Sunday off, don't come over here. He then spent the day organizing a one-man defense of his home, placing a gun and ammunition near each window of the house. On Sunday the bad guys came, firing in the air. Alejo chose his targets well during the gunfight that ensued, killing four and wounding two badly before the survivors fought their way into the house using hand grenades and killed him. Only then did the thieves begin to realize Alejo's noble death would prevent them from ever taking over his property. They fled.
Note to NRA: You might think about raising the funds to place a monumental statue of Don Alejo in front of his house, with a rifle clutched in his clammy dying hands: this one is more authentic than Charlton Heston, who used mere acting skills to rouse his audience with the same image.
This incident has captured the imagination of all of Mexico, but, if you've read this blog for the past couple of years you might expect it would provoke special discussion in Juarez.
Diario (click here) has an interesting note this morning. They interviewed 100 people "at random," (hardly a suitable sample size) to find out how they felt about relaxing gun laws in Mexico to permit households to purchase weapons for household defense.
If ever there were a place to debate gun laws, it is Juarez today, where armed self-defense is not just an abstract concept, given the very real threats your home might be violated by police or by extortionists, or murderers with many kinds of motivation.
From the very limited sample, it looks like a sophisticated debate. On the one hand there are those who argue having a weapon is dangerous, due to accidents, family violence, and because a weapon doesn't guarantee sufficient force to stop an assault, and because police or army troops increasingly invade homes looking for suspects, so there would be a danger of unnecessary violence. On the other hand there are those who claim that, since the emergency call number (066) often doesn't function at all or in an untimely fashion, and since the threats are very tangible for all sectors of society, the state should encourage everyone to have arms. Still others believe guns should be allowed, but registered, and should not be of the same caliber of arms provided to police and army. Several attorneys interviewed expressed the view that the Mexican Constitution guarantees citizens the right to have arms for household protection; in real life, however, it is extremely difficult to get a valid permit to buy a weapon.
Me? I will maintain a discreet personal silence on this issue, but the Mesilla Valley, this part of the Paso del Norte region (the other parts are Juarez and El Paso), is Pat Garrett and Billie the Kid-land, West of the Pecos, with a proud tradition of self-defense. And most folks around here, if they were living in Juarez, would obtain every weapon they could get hold of, plan a household defense just like Don Alejo did, and make sure everyone possible understood they were prepared to shoot to kill and if necessary join Don Alejo in the happy hunting grounds the moment anyone with arms--uniformed or not--burst into their homes unannounced.