Attorney General Jesus Murillo said Tuesday that a clash occurred between vigilantes and the soldiers who were trying to disarm them in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, but he did not provide any casualty figures.
The government is trying “to restore order with the least violence possible” in a state where numerous armed civilian groups have been created to fight the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel, Murillo told Televisa.
“There is no doubt that we have to restore the rule of law” in Michoacan, Murillo said, adding that the government was acting with “all the prudence, caution and care to prevent violence.”
A clash occurred in the Tierra Caliente region, which straddles Michoacan, Guerrero and Mexico states, at the start of the effort to restore order, the attorney general said.
Estanislao Beltran, a spokesman for one of the vigilante groups in Michoacan, told Efe Tuesday that soldiers opened fire on civilians in the town of Antunez, killing four people, including an 11-year-old girl.
The first community self-defense groups were formed in Michoacan in February 2013 to fight the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel.
Los Caballeros Templarios, which was founded in December 2010 by former members of the Familia Michoacana cartel, deals in both synthetic drugs and natural drugs.
The Defense Secretariat has not reported the incident or released casualty figures.
“The state is not going to allow anyone, to allow any cartel, to impose itself on the citizens,” Murillo said, adding that “there are many Templarios leaders who have been arrested in recent months.”
“If any (criminal) organization has really been dismantled, it’s this one,” the AG said, referring to statements by vigilante leaders that they will not surrender their weapons until the cartel’s leaders are captured.
Community self-defense groups and community police forces have been formed in 15 of Michoacan’s 113 cities.
The shooting in Antunez occurred hours after Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong announced that federal forces would police the areas in Michoacan plagued by clashes between drug traffickers and vigilante groups.
Osorio Chong made the announcement Monday after meeting with state officials, including Gov. Fausto Vallejo, in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan.
The federal official also called on members of community self-defense groups to “return to where you came from and go back to your daily activities.”
“There will be no tolerance for anyone caught with firearms” without legal authorization, Osorio Chong said.
Some Mexican analysts say Michoacan is close to becoming a failed state because some areas are ungovernable due to the presence of drug traffickers and the formation of vigilante groups.