22 | SEP | 2019
50 vigilante groups operate in Mexico
An armed man belonging to the Self-Defense Council of Michoacan, (CAM), stands guard at a checkpoint set up by the self-defense group at the entrance to Antúnez, Mexico - Photo: Eduardo Verdugo/AP

50 vigilante groups operate in Mexico

27/08/2019
15:44
Newsroom
Manuel Espino, Alexis Ortiz
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The first vigilante group was created on February 24, 2013

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There are at least 50 vigilante groups or self-defense group in Mexico, which operate in the states of Guerrero, Michoacán, Veracruz, Morelos, Tamaulipas, and Tabasco. The vigilante groups formed in the last six years, to allegedly fight crime
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Only 10 of these 50 vigilante groups have institutionalized: 6 in Morelos, 3 in Michoacán, and 1 in Tabasco.

The story behind vigilante groups

Michoacán

The first vigilante group was created on February 24, 2013, in La Ruana, a municipality in the state of Michoacán, where armed civilians, led by local farmer Hipólito Mora, came together to defend their community against the Los Caballeros Templarios cartel. There were up to 32 armed groups but only three remain. The other groups became municipal police officers, left the organizations, or joined criminal organizations.

Guerrero

Guerrero is currently the state with the largest number of armed civilians: 23 vigilante groups operate in 70% of the state. Many of these groups are fighting for control of some areas, others are accused of being infiltrated by criminal organizations, or being criminal groups.

In Guerrero, vigilante groups emerged on January 5, 2014, in Ayutla and Tecuanapa, two municipalities located in the area known as the Costa Chica, when hundreds of civilians blocked federal roads using low-caliber weapons and machetes to stop the most-wanted criminals in the area.

The group was named Citizen Police of the Union of the Communities and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG). Currently, this vigilante group operates in 25 municipalities and several other groups have emerged from this organization, nevertheless, they are engaged in conflicts with other groups as they are disputing control over certain areas.

In a risk map created by the Guerrero government, at least 20 municipalities are considered as high-risk areas because of their violence rates; vigilante groups operate in the majority of these municipalities, including Acapulco, Chilapa, Zihuatanejo, and Chilpancingo.

In Guerrero, the only vigilante group recognized by authorities is the CRAC Community Police, founded 24 years ago in the San Luis Acatlán municipality. Nevertheless, community police and vigilante groups are quite different as the community police is a legal institution, and its members are appointed by the local assembly.

There are at least six community police organizations in Morelos but in contrast with the previous federal administration, they have agreed to work in collaboration with local and state authorities and the army.

No recognition

The head of the National Front of Vigilante Groups, José Manuel Mireles Valverde, says there are self-defense groups in 7 municipalities in the state of Veracruz but that the government refuses to acknowledge the situation. Vigilante groups are also present in the state of Tamaulipas.

Infiltrated by organized crime

Years ago, José Manuel Mireles Valverde, the notorious leader of a vigilante group and a current government official, forgave and welcomed back some members of the self-defense group. First, those members infiltrated the Tierra Caliente vigilante group in Michoacán, then joined the now-extinct Rural Force but in the end, they joined criminal organizations.

The founder of the La Ruana vigilante Group, Hipólito Mora, explains that in the beginning, the armed movement was going well but that it was later infiltrated by former cartel members, something that was approved by Mireles Valverde and the previous federal administration.

According to information obtained by EL UNIVERSAL, community leaders from the La Huacana community have been linked to members of the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel in Michoacán.

In an interview with EL UNIVERSAL, Hipólito Mora revealed that a criminal organization asked him to lead the self-defense movement and an airplane; the same airplane where Mireles Valverde was traveling and that crashed in 2014.

“I hadn't said that they offered me that plane, people who came looking for me here in La Ruana but I turned them down.”
 

Artículo

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