Photo: Michoacan Vigilantes Fight
Never before has a civilian self-defense group risen successfully against organized crime, not in Mexico or any other country.
Authorities assert that they are closely following the evolution of the conflict in the state of Michoacan, where locals have picked up arms, are tired of extortion and murder, and have asked that the Government consider its legal struggle in cornering the powerful Knights Templar cartel. This turn of events is a milestone in the disappointing and bloody history of combating drug trafficking in Mexico, which has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people since 2006.
On Monday, government and paramilitary signed an agreement to join local monitoring bodies under the orders of the Secretary of Defense. The Mexican government has watched the unstoppable advance of these paramilitary groups as they began to loose control. Worried that this could serve to ignite other states to take up arms against organized crime, the government decided a joint effort was their only hope. Today, the dreaded Knights Templar, one of the country’s seven major cartels, hide in the mountains of Michoacán . How has it been that a humble group of farmers and traders now stand up and defeat a powerful drug cartel? Have they received support and other rival cartels with weaponry, like the Jalisco New Generation? It seems that the explanation of the success is less cloudy and more exotic than some fear, and is based on two key pillars. ‘Money from rich businessmen of Michoacán and military hardware from California, in the United States. This area of Tierra Caliente, Michoacán, is very rich in agriculture, mining and ranching. They produce 80% of the avocados consumed in Mexico and the U.S., and almost all of the lemons (limes in Mexico) that are purchased in the country. Because of their wealth, the Knights Templar have extorted entrepreneurs for very large amounts of money, which is what has now been used to purchase weapons, “said Raul Benitez Manaut, president of the Collective Security Analysis with Democracy (CASEDE)
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