Mexico: Self-Defense Outlawed In Michoacan


January 18, 2014: The government announced that the army and federal police had regained control of over 20 municipalities in Michoacan state. The operations, which pitted security forces against community self-defense militias, began on January 14. The security forces moved against the militias which refused to turn in their weapons. The government prefers to call the community groups vigilantes – and the use of that term illustrates the divide between the government and many of the communities in Michoacan state. The villages and towns complain that the government has failed to protect them from drug cartel violence and extortion, particularly from Knights Templar gunmen.  The government has also failed to weed out policemen corrupted by the cartels. Several militia leaders have accused the military and federal police of standing by while cartel gunmen fight a civil war with Mexican citizens who are defending their hometowns. According to the militia leaders in Michoacan state’s rural areas, their communities have been abandoned by government security forces.  Some militia members have accused the military of siding with the cartel gunmen. The government vehemently denies that accusation. The government claims that some of the militia leaders have other agendas, to include intimidating political rivals; security officials have also expressed concern that some of the militias have been infiltrated by the Knights Templars chief rival in the area, the Jalisco New Generation cartel. Security officials who argue that militias could become private armies subject to corruption by a criminal organization have a legitimate point.  Even if not corrupted by a cartel a militia could come under the sway of a charismatic personality. That has happened in numerous places around the globe. However, characterizing every community defense militia with the broad brush of vigilante is not deserved nor warranted. Even if the threat is a common threat, common sense says every locality will have unique circumstances and unique personalities. Over the last 18 months media interviewed many militia members who argued convincingly that they are neither revolutionaries nor criminals.  Reporters confirm that many of the people they have interviewed in rural Michoacan state are farmers, farm workers or the owners of small businesses. The reporters have visited their homes. The militia members claim they are merely frightened for their families and farms and they have formed self-defense organizations because they are desperate. Media have reported that a number of self-defense groups have told the police and army officers that they will turn in their weapons if the government will provide security for their homes, farms and businesses. However, the government must demonstrate both the willingness and the capability to provide the security. The relentless cartel violence, the extortion and now the confrontation between the military and the community militias have led some commentators to refer to Michoacan as a failed state.  This sensationalist description is an exaggeration but there are several areas in the state the government definitely does not control.   (Austin Bay)

January 17, 2014: It is estimated that the GDP will grow by four percent in 2014.  This is largely due to economic reforms, especially in the energy sector.

January 15, 2013:  Federal police and soldiers have intervened to stop the on and off firefights between a community defense militia and drug cartel gunmen in and around Antunez  (Michoacan state). Late last week a militia took control of Antunez after fighting with a group of Knights Templar cartel gunmen. Militias also claimed to have taken control of two other municipalities in the area. According to the government, three unarmed people were slain before security forces intervened. However militias in the state later claimed that the government was attempting to use the incident to disarm militias in the state’s Tierra Caliente region.

Authorities have now attributed the April 2013 murder of a senior executive in a foreign-owned company to an organized criminal group. Investigators with the government’s special organized crime task force reported that ArcelorMittal resisted an extortion attempt by the criminal group. The company is the world’s largest steelmaking corporation and owns a major plant in the port city of Lazaro Cardenas.  The company employs around 6,000 workers in nearby Michoacan state. Though authorities did not name the Knights Templar cartel, it is the likely suspect.  The Knights Templar are operating illegal mines in Michoacan.  Investigators have turned up evidence that the cartel sells its illegal iron ore to China and uses Lazaro Cardenas as its shipping hub. The Mexican Navy took control of the port in November 2013. The executive, Virgilio Camacho was found murdered execution-style with one bullet in his head.

January 11. 2014:  The government confirmed it has assigned a special police guard detachment to protect the hospitalized militia leader Jose Manuel Mireles, who is in Mexico City recuperating from injuries suffered when his aircraft crashed on January 5. According to police, the Knights Templar cartel intended to assassinate Mireles, who is a doctor and has emerged as the leading spokesman for community self-defense militias in Michoacan. He helped organize the community self-defense force for his own town, Tepalcatepec.

January 10, 2014: Mexican and U.S. police discovered another drug tunnel in Nogales, Arizona. This time the tunnel was not completed.

January 6, 2014: Government and U.S. security agencies confirmed that an AK-47 assault rifle found at the December 18 firefight in Puerto Penasco (state) was one smuggled into Mexico as part of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) Fast and Furious operation. Fast and Furious gunwalked around 2,000 weapons into Mexico in an effort to trace gun smugglers and their customers.

January 5, 2014: A small plane crashed near the town of La Huancana (southern Michoacan state in western Mexico). One person was killed in the incident and four people were injured. One of the injured was the state’s leading community self-defense militia leader, Jose Manuel Mireles who apparently suffered a severe head injury. Police reported that they believe cartel gunmen were planning on assassinating Mireles when he arrived at an airfield near his hometown of Tepalcatepec. Mireles received a warning on a cell phone and diverted to La Huancana.  Mireles constantly criticizes the government for failing to protect Michoacan and he has become something of a government adversary. He is very popular with many citizens in the state. A federal government Blackhawk helicopter flew Mireles to Mexico City for treatment and protection.

A community self-defense force in the town of Paracuaro (Michoacan state) claimed to have taken control of the town and disarmed 15 municipal police. The militia members accused the policemen of working for drug cartel gunmen.

January 3, 2014: Dutch police arrested a top Sinaloa cartel gunmen (Jose Rodrigo Arechiga Gamboa) in Amsterdam. Gamboa is wanted in the U.S. on narcotics smuggling charges.

Nine people were slain in a gunfight which occurred when gunmen entered the Tuxpan prison in Iguala  (Guerrero state). The gunmen were dressed as police officers who pretended to be delivering a prisoner. The gunmen then attacked inmates and fired on guards in a security tower. Four inmates were murdered. Prison guard killed five of the attackers. One guard was wounded.

January 1, 2014:  Today is the 20th anniversary of Zapatista anti-NAFTA rebellion launched by Sub-commandante Marcos and a couple of hundred Mayans in Chiapas state.  Many of the rebels were armed with fake wooden firearms. Marcos made use of the telephone and the fax machine to communicate with media about the abuse of indigenous people in Mexico and endemic corruption.

December 28, 2013: Security personnel discovered five headless bodies around a traffic circle on the outskirts of the capital of Michoacan state, Morelia. A sign was attached to one of the murder victims with the initials CJNG.  The Jalisco New Generation drug cartel frequently delivers messages signed with its Spanish initials, CJNG.

December 27, 2013: Philippine security personnel announced that on December 25 they discovered a large shipment of methamphetamines stored on a wild game farm in Batangas province, south of Manila. Investigators believe the shipment belonged to the Sinaloa drug cartel. The farm was leased by three Mexican citizens associated with the cartel.



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