As Mexico Cracks Down, Vigilantes Are On The Rise In Latin America

April 21, 2014

youth with handgunInternational Business Times, 4/19/14

“Si quieres algo bien hecho, lo tienes que hacer tú mismo.”  For the last year, the popular Spanish phrase — “if you want a thing done right, do it yourself” — has applied in the Mexican state of Michoacán to something unusual: policing. Tired of the violent control exerted by the Knights Templar drug cartel, and by the authorities’ inaction, the population of this western region of Mexico took up arms and organized informal defense groups to protect businesses, homes and families.

This situation, in which the failure of institutional justice to protect a community prompts residents to take matters into their own hands, is not exclusive to Mexico. “Justicia popular,” or mob justice, is on the rise throughout Latin America, whether it be as armed vigilantes like in Mexico, or lynching attacks, like in Argentina and Bolivia.

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Vigilantes to disarm in Mexico’s Michoacan state

April 16, 2014

m16 gun closeupLA Times, 4/15/14

The Mexican government has set a date for the so-called self-defense militias in the troubled western state of Michoacan to dissolve and account for their weapons, a move that does not necessarily signal the end of the vigilante movement.

Alfredo Castillo, the administration’s point-man for Michoacan state, said in a series of interviews Tuesday that the militias had agreed to disband by May 10.

Those who want to continue patrolling the towns of Michoacan will have to become part of a new statewide rural police force, Castillo said. All current militia members, however, will be allowed to keep their weapons, regardless of whether they join the police force, as long as they register them with the army and keep them at home, he said.

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Autodefensas registrarán sus armas y se desmovilizarán

April 15, 2014

Guns by Flickr user barjackMilenio, 4/14/14

Autoridades federales y locales, así como pobladores de la zona de Tierra Caliente, en Michoacán, incluyendo grupos de autodefensas, alcanzaron este lunes 11 acuerdos en materias de legalización, coordinación, desmovilización, diálogo, protección, compensación y soluciones legales, que deberán cumplirse al 10 de mayo próximo, informó la Secretaría de Gobernación (Segob).

En un encuentro coordinado por la Comisión para la Seguridad y el Desarrollo Integral de Michoacán, se lograron dichos acuerdos que pretenden dispensar la situación en los municipios más conflictivos de la región, detalló la dependencia en un comunicado.

De esta forma, se acordaron cuatro puntos en materia de legalización y coordinación: abrir la posibilidad de que aquellos pobladores que lo deseen, puedan incorporarse a la Policía Rural Estatal para que puedan brindar protección a sus comunidades de manera legal; ampliar el proceso de inscripción a los Cuerpos de Defensa Rurales de la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (Sedena).

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Limes: Mexico’s new green gold

April 10, 2014

LimesCNN, 4/10/14

Dressed in a white cowboy hat and shirt in the merciless sun, 63-year-old Juan Leana Malpica proudly pulls a branch down in his lime grove and cups a fruit. His limes, he says, set themselves apart by their juiciness.

He has been growing the fruit for the last 12 years and has never experienced a time of such upheaval.

Officially, lime prices are in a spiral of hyperinflation, the national average jumping at a monthly average of around 50% this year.

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Mexican vigilante leader refuses government order to disarm

April 8, 2014

protest -- stroke -- resistanceLA Times, 4/7/14

A key leader of the vigilante “self-defense” movement in Mexico’s Michoacan state said Monday that he was refusing a government order to disarm, and roadblocks to keep out federal forces charged with taking away the vigilantes’ weapons were reported in numerous cities.

Vigilante leader Jose Manuel Mireles said in a radio interview that the government had not sufficiently pacified the state. “Armed and masked” drug cartel members began appearing in the streets just hours after the government’s announcement last week declaring it was time for the vigilantes to disarm, he said.

“For that reason we are reinforcing our trenches,” Mireles said. “We are going to lay down the arms when the federal government and the state have finished the work of cleaning the state of Michoacan of criminals.”

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Mexican Security Forces Kill Michoacan Cartel Leader

April 1, 2014

handcuffsNY Times, 4/1/14

Mexican security forces killed a leader of the violent Knights Templar drug cartel on Monday, officials said. The cartel has created a major security problem for President Enrique Pena Nieto in the western state of Michoacan, where it has been fighting vigilante groups.

Enrique Plancarte was killed by Mexican marines in an operation in Michoacan, security officials said. “The identity of Enrique Plancarte, believed killed in a confrontation with marines, is being confirmed,” Mexico’s security ministry said via Twitter, adding that it would provide more information on Tuesday.

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Mexico Nabs Alleged Criminals Posing as Vigilantes

March 28, 2014

hands in handcuffsThe New York Times, 03/28/14

Mexican authorities said Thursday they have arrested 11 suspected criminals who disguised themselves as vigilantes from an anti-crime “self-defense” force in the western state of Michoacan. The arrests illustrated the murky nature of the 20,000-strong vigilante movement, which sprang up a year ago to combat the Michoacan-based Knights Templar drug cartel. The Michoacan state prosecutors’ office confirmed the detentions occurred Wednesday in the town of Ziracuaretiro, near the city of Uruapan, and said the men had been turned over to federal prosecutors on weapons-possession charges.

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Mexico’s rising threat: extortion

March 24, 2014

currency - coinsChristian Science Monitor, 3/19/14

When the phone rang at a small community center in a poor Mexico City suburb, the voice on the other end of the line belonged to a member of the criminal group, La Familia Michoacana – or so the caller claimed. He was demanding money, and when the director of the center, Raúl Solís Pineda, said he had none, the extortionist said he wasn’t asking for “millions” and that Mr. Solís Pineda must pay. This type of call is common in Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, or Neza, as the locals refer to it.

The poor municipality is located in the State of Mexico, which wraps around three sides of Mexico City. It had the highest number of reported extortions in 2013 – a year when that crime surged in the country as a whole. Although Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto has pointed to successes in his country’s fight against organized crime, extortion has become more common, as has kidnapping. In fact, the number of reported incidences for both of these crimes was higher in 2013 than any other year in the last decade. The small sums frequently demanded in these anonymous calls, as well as their unknown origin, often mean police are slow to react – if they pursue the allegation.

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Vigilantes say Mexico government persecuting them

March 18, 2014

Army detentions MichoacanNews Observer, 3/16/14

Leaders of Mexican vigilante groups that rose up against the Knights Templar drug cartel in western Michoacan state say they are being persecuted not only by criminals but also by authorities, who recently detained one of their top leaders. Vigilante spokesman Estanislao Beltran said Sunday the civilian “self-defense” groups’ leadership met this weekend to try to form a united front to demand that the Mexican government live up to its promises of bringing security to Michoacan and forming a national guard.

Dr. Jose Manuel Mireles, a self-defense group leader in Tepacaltepec, said in an audio message posted on the Internet that the groups are “being persecuted by the Knights Templar, the army, the navy and all the police departments.” Authorities last week filed charges against vigilante leader Hipolito Mora in the killing of two members of a rival vigilante faction. His detention came as federal authorities sought to heal a rift between his faction and another vigilante group.

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Mexico: ‘Knights Templar’ member held on suspicion of organ trafficking

March 18, 2014

mexican drugsThe Guardian, 3/18/14

Police in Mexico’s western state of Michoacan detained an alleged member of the Knights Templar cartel on suspicion of organ trafficking. Carlos Castellanos Becerra , Michoacan’s public safety secretary, alleged that Manuel Plancarte Gaspar was part of a cartel ring that would target people with certain characteristics, especially children, for kidnapping and harvesting organs. He did not give any specifics or present cases. He said investigators were looking into alleged cases that occurred in previous years.

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