The Creation of a Mexican Political Prisoner: José Manuel Mireles

July 11, 2014

07/09/14 Mexico Voices. Reforma Sergio Aguayo, with the collaboration of Maura Roldán Álvarez
Translated by Thomas Mosley 

prisonThe imprisonment of José Manuel Mireles has been added to the interplay between organized crime, mobilized society, and the State.

The spread of organized crime looms in the background due to geopolitical realities, economic inequalities, and gaps left by a State that is characterized by corruption and inefficiency. Michoacán reached its limit because of the brutality and greed of the Knights Templar.

Let’s take the self-defense groups as a second aspect. Michoacán stands out in the Caribbean Basin’s criminal history because only there did they confront the criminals with an armed uprising. Mireles, a charismatic social leader and a great communicator, found himself in this new phenomenon. He was their spokesman and a representative until, at the beginning of this year, a plane crash took him out of play. Meanwhile, Excélsior spread the word of the dark part of his biography (that he was imprisoned for drug trafficking), which the doctor insisted on denying.

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Mexico’s vigilante movement has a strong U.S. connection

June 2, 2014

pistolChicago Tribune, 06/02/14

Sporting a semiautomatic assault rifle and a “213” area code tattoo, Cuauhtemoc Espejo boarded the passenger bus and checked riders’ IDs. Espejo, who returned to Mexico’s Tierra Caliente from California’s Central Valley a few years ago, is a member of one of the vigilante bands that in recent months took over large parts of Michoacan state dominated for nearly a decade by drug and extortion cartels. “There is a lot of fear, uncertainty now,” Espejo said as he made sure nobody from the notorious Knights Templar gang was on the bus. Many of the vigilantes, like Espejo, are returnees from California, where they worked in farm fields and factories before being deported or coming back voluntarily to protect their long-suffering families here.

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Mexican vigilantes who ousted Knights Templar cartel could bring new violence

March 19, 2014

youth with handgunThe Guardian, 03/19/14

When people in Mexico’s western state of Michoacán started fighting back against the unbridled violence, systematic economic exploitation, and shattered self respect that came with living under the de facto dictatorship of one of Mexico’s most vicious and bizarre criminal gangs, many in Mexico applauded, or at least expressed sympathy. Today the Knights Templar cartel that once dominated the region is a shadow of its former self, but concern is growing that the heavily armed militias who helped  break the cartel’s dominance could themselves trigger more violence and prove as difficult to control.

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Mexican vigilante leader Hipólito Mora arrested over the murders of two men

March 12, 2014

m16 gun closeupThe Guardian, 03/12/14

The leader of a civilian “self-defence” group in Mexico has been arrested for allegedly participating in the killings of two men, according to authorities. Prosecutors say Hipólito Mora was detained on Tuesday  after witnesses told investigators  he and other members of his group took part in the killings in the town of Buenavista in the western state of Michoacan.

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Mexican vigilante leader detained as slay suspect

March 12, 2014

youth with handgunThe Washington Post, 03/12/14

One of the main leaders of the civilian “self-defense” groups that rose up to challenge a drug cartel in Mexico’s Michoacan state was detained late Tuesday as a suspect in the weekend killings of two vigilantes, authorities announced. The detention of Hipolito Mora, who had become the affable public face of the vigilante movement, came as federal authorities sought to heal a rift between his faction and another group since the Knights Templar cartel was driven out of much of the western farming state.

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The Rise of Mexico’s Self-Defense Forces

June 19, 2013

Latitudes Press.Foreign Affairs, July/August 2013

Mexico has suffered staggering levels of violence and crime during the country’s seven-year-long war against the cartels. The fighting has killed 90,000 people so far, a death toll larger, as of this writing, than that of the civil war in Syria. Homicide rates have tripled since 2007. In an effort to stem the carnage, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced last December that the federal government, having struggled to defeat the cartels using corrupt local police and an inadequate military, would create an elite national police force of 10,000 officers by the end of this year.

Many Mexicans are unwilling to wait. In communities across the country, groups of men have donned masks, picked up rifles and machetes, and begun patrolling their neighborhoods and farmland. As in the Tierra Colorada incident, their behavior is not always pretty. Several months ago, another such group in the state of Guerrero detained 54 people for over six weeks, accusing them of crimes ranging from stealing cattle to murder. After a series of unofficial trials, they handed 20 of them over to local prosecutors and let the rest go free.

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Mexico’s Self-Defense Squads Refuse To Disarm Despite Army Presence In Michoacan

May 24, 2013

m16 gun closeupAgence France Presse, 5/23/2013

Farmers wearing bulletproof vests and toting assault rifles ride in pick-up trucks emblazoned with the word “self-defense” to protect this rural Mexican town from a drug cartel. The government deployed thousands of troops to the western state of Michoacan this week, but in some towns like Coalcoman, population 10,000, vigilantes are wary of putting down their weapons until they feel safe again. “We won’t drop our guard until we see results,” Antonio Rodriguez, a 37-year-old avocado grower and member of the community force, told AFP.

Authorities detained four members of a self-defense group in another town called Buenavista on Wednesday, angering about 200 residents, some wielding sticks, who surrounded some 20 soldiers to demand their release. The situation was defused about five hours later, when two of the detainees were released, according to an interior ministry source. Local media reported that all four had been released. Interior Minister Miguel Angelo Osorio Chong said earlier that the soldiers were merely having a “dialogue” with the residents to resolve the dispute, but he insisted that the authorities would disarm and detain anyone with a weapon.

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Entrenched Mexico drug mafia, vigilantes battle for control of agricultural Michoacan state

May 23, 2013

Michoacan, Mexico Photo by Flickr user Scott Clark find link to his photoAssociated Press, 5/22/2013

Help finally arrived Sunday when thousands of soldiers rolled in to restore order. The government of President Enrique Pena Nieto says troops will stay in Michoacan until every citizen lives in peace. But the offensive, headed by Secretary of Defense Salvador Cienfuegos, looks a lot like failed operations launched previously by former President Felipe Calderon, who started his first assault on organized crime in Michoacan shortly after taking office in late 2006.

Calderon was trying to stop drug cartels from morphing into mafias controlling all segments of society. But that’s exactly what has happened, as they maintain country roads, control the local economy and mete out justice for common crimes. In the Tierra Caliente, a remote agricultural region, fire has been a favored weapon of the cartel. On the highway between Coalcoman and La Ruana, the ruins of three sawmills torched by the cartel still smoldered this week.

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Mexico’s dissident teachers: Unruly southerners

April 19, 2013

protest -- stroke -- resistanceThe Economist, 4/18/13

Some wear genteel straw hats, others red bandanas hiding their faces. Some carry parasols, others sticks and metal rods that they brandish sullenly. The motley crew of middle-class teachers and their rough-necked supporters in the south-western state of Guerrero hardly look like a force to be reckoned with. Yet their protest represents a challenge to the new government of Enrique Peña Nieto. How he copes will influence a reform agenda that he is pushing forward at lightning speed.

The protests come from an unexpected quarter. When prosecutors arrested Elba Esther Gordillo, the caudillo-like head of the National Education Workers’ Union (SNTE), on February 26th on charges of embezzlement and money laundering, it looked as if Mr Peña had removed the main obstacle to a constitutional reform on education signed the day before. The reform’s backers were delighted that he had struck against a union that for decades had held sway over education policy.

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Worry grows over Mexico vigilante movement

April 12, 2013

youth with handgunLos Angeles Times, 4/11/13

Debate is intensifying over armed vigilante patrols that have sprung up in crime-plagued sections of rural Mexico, particularly in the state of Guerrero, where some patrols joined forces this week with a radical teachers union that has been wreaking havoc with massive protests, vandalism and violent confrontations with police.

The two groups, on the surface, would appear to have little in common. The vigilante patrols, typically made up of masked campesinos, are among dozens that have emerged in the countryside in recent months, purporting to protect their communities from the depredations of the drug cartels. The state-level teachers union, meanwhile, has taken to the streets to protest a sweeping education reform law backed by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

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