Mexico Government Commissions Former Vigilante Group Fighting Drug Cartel In Michoacan

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Flag of MexicoThe government of Mexico demobilized a vigilante group fighting the drug cartel Knights Templar in the State of Michoacan.  The group, consisting of manly ranchers and farmers, was successful in largely expelling the cartel while the government was not able.

At a ceremony in the city of Tepalcatepec, where the group began in February of 2013, uniformed members of the now official Self-Defense Council of Michoacan (CAM) were assigned arms and uniforms.  120 officers were sworn in as a rural police force.

The group’s spokesman, Estanislao Beltran proclaimed. “Now we are part of the government.  Now we can defend ourselves with weapons in a legal way.”

Mexican Army Forces in MichoacanThere are hopes in the government the creation of this new police force will end the lawlessness in the state and the vigilantism of the civilian population.  The federal commissioner for Michoacan, Alfredo Castillo said that action would be taken now against “false self-defense groups” but said of the CAM “[You] will have the responsibility of defending your neighbors from delinquency and organized crime.”

The government found itself in a difficult situation.  Elected leaders and law enforcement agencies lost control of the state to the Knights Templar and were unable to regain control of it despite the assistance of the Federal Police and the Military. Eventually the government had to rely on the vigilante groups to root out the cartel due to their tactics and their knowledge of where to find the cartel.

Mexico has fought a long war against the cartels but the larger picture is that local and state governments have suffered from endemic corruption and neglect.  Some have accused several areas of Mexico as being failed states in the international sense where laws are often ignored and seldom enforced to the long term detriment of society.  But is the commissioning of a vigilante group an effective means of addressing a problem where the government has failed or is this to lead to extra judicial and largely unregulated groups that have plagued other nations?

With the establishment of the commission and cooperation with the self-defense council the federal forces were able to arrest or have killed the three main leaders of the Knights Templar and a fourth is on the run.  Yet, the vigilante movement is fractured by divisions.  A founder of a vigilante group, Mipolito Mora is incarcerated, accused of murdering two rival vigilantes.  Dr. Jose Manuel Mireles, the spokesman for another vigilante group was allegedly involved in the killing of five vigilantes.

Fighting Between Cartels And The Mexican Army

Still, other vigilante groups, despite the demobilization of the CAM, vowed to continue their campaigns as they see fitting.  They have set up roadblocks in Caleta and other parts of the state.  Meluir Sauceda, a vigilante, vowed that they do not need outside assistance stating in an interview, “We don’t want them (Government and regular police forces) to come, we don’t recognize them. Here we can maintain our own security. We don’t need anyone bringing it from outside.”

Many predict little will change after Saturday.”This (demobilization) agreement is just something to please the government,” said Rene Sanchez, 22, a vigilante from the self-defense stronghold of Buenavista. “With them or without them, we are going to keep at it.”

Protests Against ViolenceThe situation in Mexico is reminiscent of Colombia which has fought a bloody conflict between the Medellín Cartel, government law enforcement, and various paramilitary vigilante forces having close ties with the government; namely the Muerte a Secuestradores.  The cartel was also bitter enemies of the Cali Cartel.  But Mexico, unlike Colombia had a more establish and well funded government whereas Mexico continues to be largely unable to meet the needs of society.  The situation is likely to degrade into further conflict and vigilantism which many individuals in the areas widely controlled by cartel sympathizing elements see these illegal groups as the only answer to address their needs than incompetent government agencies.  For the individual faced with few prospects of a better future the law of the rifle and vigilantism will continue to be a way of life. 

Yet, there is a growing movement in Mexico protesting the violence. The hope is that eventually a solution will be found and a peaceful life can resume for Mexico’s citizens.

By Darren Smith

Source: The Olympian

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers.  As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

26 thoughts on “Mexico Government Commissions Former Vigilante Group Fighting Drug Cartel In Michoacan”

  1. ElsDL It is not the solution. But, Los Pepe’s showed they can be part of the puzzle. But, as you note, they are an unleashed junkyard dog

  2. The US and the Afghan government tried to do a similar thing in Afghanistan. The people in villages around the country were starting to take justice into their own hands and they were made legitimate. We call those groups Arbakzai. It predictably evolved into a group of men high on power with all the consequences documented. The average Afghan person would say, about those armed and sometimes US trained vigilante groups that they were robbed and hurt during the day by the Taleban and during the night by the Arbakzai. I can’t blame the average citizens for trying but I don’t for a second believe that this is but a a bandaid on a huge wound which will continue to fester for as long as there are people who feel they need drugs to make it through the day.

  3. Without question the emphasis should be on demand. But, the liquor industry and govt. unions do not want drugs decriminalized, that’s money pout of their pockets.

  4. “If the Illicit Drug Industry is the second largest industry in the world, the Anti-Drug Industry, or DEA, is the next largest. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish where one ends and the other begins.
    Actually, the problems are not as simple as one makes it sound in a few hundred words or less… books could be written, and have been, which neither encompass the problem nor address the possible solutions.
    Guns and drugs are the two most prolific and profitable industries in the world, and as long as we operate under the same rules of capitalist endeavor, and materialism which we have been for so many centuries, nothing we can do will change the system or the situation.
    If both were legalized, or decriminalized, it would lend some degree of control over their use, not sufficient to eliminate abuse and misuse, surely, but the fact of availability would eliminate in large part the illicit market for both by reducing the enormous profits in both illicit drugs and weapons sales. This in itself would reduce the ready availability of both to the abusers and misusers.

    from a commenter on another site

  5. Darren, EVERYTHING but Colombia is spelled w/ a ‘u’ My son had teachers he needed to correct. It is a very common error. Thanks.

  6. Paul, Well, like the warden in Cool Hand Luke would say, “We need to get your mind right.” Maybe you need a couple days in the box.

  7. Paul, Stop giving facts. Bush bad, Obama good. Get w/ the program, boy.

  8. AL Zheimers, Darren is all substance and no sensationalism. If you look over his record since he became a Guest Blogger you’ll see he is consistently putting out issues that need to be discussed but are missed for many reasons.

  9. ‘It was still a Bush program….so no matter what happened at the direction of Obama, it’s still Bush’s fault’


    1. Fast and Furious – where they lost 1400 guns – starts and ends under Obama. Gunrunner – where they lose no guns – is like the DOJ. Obama owns it, it is his 1400 lost guns and his dead bodies on both sides of the border. Bush – no lost guns – no dead bodies. Obama – 1400 lost guns – hundreds of dead bodies.

    1. No, Gunrunner was the overall program and Fast and Furious was the Obama program instituted under Gunrunner.

  10. This is one of the most well written articles on this blog. Two issues come to mind here which have parallels in Nigeria and many other places. 1. Failed states; and, 2. the second and somewhat related issue, the right to bear arms. We have more reason to be concerned with Mexico than with Nigeria because Mexico is our border state. In both territories they do not have the ability to police or put down rebellion and pirate activities. These folks in Mexico would have been better off had they all been well armed so as to defend themselves and form this militia to root out the crooks and pirates when the government failed. There is an applicable saying: East of Corfu the Ten Commandments Don’t Apply. But now is South of the Border.

    1. Al – well, we seemed to have armed some of the narco terrorists during Fast and Furious. Now Mexico is having to clean up the mess.

  11. Got it Nick. must have been a habit for me having lived next to the Columbia River for much of my life 🙂

  12. Darren, Colombia is spelled w/ an ‘o’. Not nitpicking but it is my son’s homeland.

  13. Los Pepes was the vigilante group that helped bring down the Medellin Cartel in Colombia. Anyone w/ knowledge of the situation in Colombia in the 80’s/90’s knows that this was the only way. It was a two front war. Brave men and women in the press, courts, and police fighting this narco terrorists by the books, and a group of vigilates, wading in the sewer and killing bad guys where they live. I was very informed about Colombia. I am less informed about the Mexican situation. From what I do now, Mexico does not seem as infested as was Colombia. But, they certainly seem to be headed that direction. Sometimes the gloves have to come off.

  14. I hope this decision doesn’t resemble when the Stones used the Hells Angels as security.

    1. rafflaw – I think it is already downhill, but it is a pragmatic solution to a really bad problem.

  15. It sounds like they officially recognized Los Pepes from Colombia. They were mean, but effective.

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