Photo: Mexican vigilantes
Two prominent leaders of the vigilante groups that sprang up in the western state of Michoacan to defend communities from organized crime registered to become part of the new Rural Defense Corps, which will operate under the control of the Mexican military.
Estanislao Beltran and Hipolito Mora reported on Thursday to the induction center the military set up this week in the main square of Buenavista, Michoacan.
The militia movement has always been ready to work with the federal government to combat criminality in the state, Beltran, spokesman of the General Council of Self-Defense groups of Michoacan, told Foro TV.
Now, he said, the militias are expecting “the good response of the government, because both sides must comply” with the pact signed Monday to bring the vigilantes under army command.
“I come here to register a gun with them (the military) to remain as a rural defense (corps member),” said Mora, leader of a militia based in the town of La Ruana.
“The majority (of the vigilantes) want to participate. There are some who don’t - I don’t understand why not - but the majority do want to,” he said.
Dozens of men and women affiliated with the militias began showing up at the induction center early Thursday to ask questions, fill-out applications and undergo medical exams, Foro TV reported.
Authorities will check applicants’ information against government databases to prevent people with criminal records from joining the new corps.
“These corps are temporary and will be under the command of the authority established under the applicable legal regulations,” Mexico’s Government Secretariat said Monday in a statement announcing the accord with the Michoacan militias.
Rural Defense Corps units, legally part of the regular military, are made up of volunteers under the command of active-duty officers.
Their mission, according to the law, is to “cooperate with the troops in activities being carried out, when they are asked to by the military command.”
Monday’s agreement requires militia members to register their weapons with the military, while security officials must provide the groups with the equipment and transportation needed to do their jobs.
The first community self-defense groups were formed in Michoacan in February 2013 to fight the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel.
While the Templarios’ main business is supplying crystal meth and other synthetic drugs to the U.S. market, the group has sidelines in extortion and kidnapping for ransom.
Exasperated by the cartel’s crimes and the lack of response from authorities, Michoacan residents, with financial support from local businesses, decided to take on the Templarios themselves.
The federal government grew alarmed about escalating violence in the state and deployed soldiers and police in Michoacan on Jan. 13 in an effort to restore order.