PRI-ista Paramilitary Groups (Mexico)

Country: Mexico
Details of Formation: The group was founded by PRI loyalists when the PRI’s control appeared to be slipping to the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas. One source says they became active after the murder of a PRI peasant leader.
Details of Termination: On 2 July 2000 the PRI government's rule came to an end. The PRI governor of Chiapas was also ousted, with the new governor promising to go after the paramilitaries. In October 2000, members of the Peace and Justice group were arrested. Activity seems to have largely ceased with the change of government. In 2002 and 2005 the Zapatistas argued that government backed paramilitaries were still operating in Chiapas. Information is insufficient to determine if these are the same groups as the PRI-ista paramilitaries.
Purpose: The PRI-ista’s main purpose was to fight Zapatista insurgents and ensure continued PRI rule and control over the territory by intimidating potential supporters.
Organisation: The PRI-ista paramilitary groups were linked to the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). They received money from high-levels of government. One PRI-ista subgroup, Peace and Justice, was closely affiliated with PRI congressman Samuel Sanchez. Before the July 6, 1998 elections, the state government channeled 4.6 million pesos ($515,000) to the PRI-ista groups. The groups are headed by autonomous local political bosses who are affiliated with the PRI and feared losing political control. There are links between the PRI-ista groups and the police, army, local PRI officials or landowners. Some members have come directly from the ranks of the state ruling party and police. The Mexican government denied being involved with the group.
Weapons and Training: Army and police personnel have been involved in providing training for the paramilitaries. The PRI-ista paramilitary groups are armed with AK-47s, high-powered rifles, handguns and machetes.
Size: The PRI-ista paramilitary groups are composed of more than 30 armed civilian groups.
Reason for Membership: Most members are poor, young indigenous men who are jobless and landless and have no political agenda or social ideology. They are offered clothing, the chance to drive a car and the power of a gun, as well as a monthly wage of 1,400 pesos ($175). There are also speculations that members are large landowner, PRI-affiliates small landowners and conservative religious groups that oppose both the social activism of the Catholic Church and the Indian protestants.
Treatment of Civilians: The PRI-ista paramilitary groups acted violently against civilians. They committed killings of civilians, including women and children and systematically harassed civilians and burned their homes. There are also reports of rape and kidnap, intimidation and extortion, murder and mayhem. Some harassing and killing were committed in coordination with police and while the army turned a blind eye. State and federal governments were unable or unwilling to curb them, and the groups were thus able to act in impunity. There are allegations that authorities actively acquiesce to the abuses.
Other Information: The PRI-ista paramilitary groups have names such as The Justice and Peace Group/Peace and Justice/Development, Peace and Justice, Chinchulines (lice), Red Mask, the People’s Armed Forces, the Throat Slitters and Degolladores (the Beheaders). They were modeled after the White Guards.
References: Information was taken from news sources listed in the PGMD