Hipolito Mora, a vigilante leader from the western Mexican state of Michoacan, told Efe he was flown to Mexico City on a government helicopter amid tensions between his group and a rival self-defense organization.
Mora is the leader of a vigilante group formed more than a year ago in the town of La Ruana to fight the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel, which has a strong presence in the state.
The situation was tense on Monday in La Ruana because Luis Antonio Torres Gonzalez, the leader of the vigilante group in the neighboring town of Buenavista, tried to occupy the community.
The towns are in the Tierra Caliente region, which takes its name from the high temperatures in the area and straddles Michoacan, Guerrero and Mexico states.
The Caballeros Templarios cartel controlled the region until the federal government deployed the security forces to fight crime in the area.
The 58-year-old Mora, a lemon grower in La Ruana, said he was flown out of the Tierra Caliente on a government helicopter and planned to meet with federal officials to discuss the situation in his town.
Dozens of followers of Torres Gonzalez tried to occupy La Ruana, but “the people resisted” and held the checkpoints, keeping out the rival vigilantes, Mora said.
This was the worst standoff between vigilante groups since the first community self-defense organizations were formed on Feb. 24, 2013.
Vigilante groups have spread across Michoacan, which has been plagued by drug-related violence blamed on the Caballeros Templarios.
The conflicts between rival vigilante groups are rooted in fears that some of the organizations may have been infiltrated by cartel members or people loyal to the criminal organization.
Mora, one of the leaders not suspected by officials of being allied with the cartel, told Efe in an interview on Feb. 21 that infiltration by criminals was the biggest challenge facing the vigilante movement.
Over the weekend, soldiers killed Caballeros Templarios boss Nazario Moreno Gonzalez.
Moreno, known as “El Chayo” and reported killed in 2010, died in a shootout with soldiers on Sunday near Tumbiscatio, a city in Michoacan.
The 2006-2012 administration of President Felipe Calderon announced that Moreno died in a shootout with the Federal Police on Dec. 9, 2010, but officials said the body was not recovered because members of the cartel the drug trafficker led at the time, La Familia Michoacana, took it away.
La Familia Michoacana was formed in 2006 to push the rival Los Zetas gang out of Michoacan.
Moreno and other Familia Michoacana members formed the Caballeros Templarios organization after he was reported killed by the government.
Los Caballeros Templarios, which deals in both synthetic and natural drugs, commits murders, stages kidnappings and runs extortion rackets that target business owners and transport companies in Michoacan.
The cartel uses Michoacan’s 270 kilometers (168 miles) of coastline to smuggle chemical drug precursors for the production of synthetic drugs into Mexico.
The federal government deployed soldiers and police in Michoacan on Jan. 13 in an effort to end the wave of violence in the state.
Dionisio Loya Plancarte, one of the cartel’s top leaders, was arrested by federal forces in late January.