February 16, 2014 |
CHILPANCINGO, Mexico - On a cool evening in February, Pioquinto Damian, the head of the Chamber of Commerce here in Guerrero's capital city, was locked away in his downtown apartment, afraid to step outside. He was convinced that the mayor had tried to kill him in an ambush just a few days before. In response, the governor had assigned him 18 heavily armed police officers as bodyguards. A few miles outside town, hundreds of members of autodefensas - vigilante "self-defense" militias composed largely of fed-up farmworkers - were patrolling the streets of semirural suburbs with ancient rifles and shotguns, hoping to rid them of the drug cartel thugs who had terrorized them for years.
February 6, 2014 |
MEXICO CITY - Four human heads were reportedly discovered Thursday in Michoacan state, one of several recent incidents that suggest the Knights Templar drug cartel may be lashing out as the federal government and vigilante groups attempt to retake territory under cartel control. The heads were found in the indigenous community of Zacan, about 200 miles west of Mexico City, according to numerous news reports. The newspaper El Universal reported that a "message with threats from organized crime" was found along with the body parts.
January 30, 2014 |
MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's attorney general said Thursday that he has proof that some of the arms being used by the vigilante “self-defense” groups of Michoacan state were supplied by a drug cartel, the Jalisco New Generation, according to news reports. The self-defense groups sprang up last February to take on a drug cartel called the Knights Templar. Many members are rural landowners and farmworkers fed up with the harassment and extortion by the Knights Templars. But there has been wide speculation that the groups had some connection to, or support from, the New Generation, a rival of the Knights Templar.
January 25, 2014 |
MEXICO CITY - Boots on the ground was the easy part. Last week, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto sent a massive surge of military and federal police to embattled Michoacan state. The federal forces currently patrolling its cities, highways and backroads have brought a tenuous peace to a region that had faced a potential showdown between the dominant Knights Templar drug cartel and armed vigilante militias that emerged to drive the cartel off. Now Peña Nieto must find a long-term solution for the troubled area known as Tierra Caliente, or Hot Land, where years of corruption and neglect - and the subsequent tyranny imposed by criminals - have eroded faith in government authority at all levels, allowing civil society to all but unravel.
January 19, 2014 |
NUEVA ITALIA, Mexico - Father Patricio Madrigal Diaz was sitting in a big, empty church describing the moment the ragtag "self-defense" forces came barreling into town bearing AK-47s - and a promise to free this farming community from the suffocating grip of the drug cartel. The cleric was finishing Sunday Mass in a tiny stucco chapel north of town last week when his flock was alarmed by a rumble of tires. Some ran home. Others shut the church windows tight. " Se va a poner feo ," they told Father Patricio.
January 15, 2014 |
OUTSIDE NUEVA ITALIA, Mexico - The men came down from the highlands to the north of here. They were armed with shotguns, shod in sneakers and dusty boots. Their aim was to rid the Michoacan city of Nueva Italia of the dreaded Knights Templar drug cartel. They rolled into town Sunday morning, disarmed the local police, and declared themselves in control, joined by scores of men from other towns who also consider themselves part of Michoacan's vigilante "self-defense" movement. Their next goal was to invade the larger city of Apatzingan, an even bigger cartel stronghold, and take it over too. But by Wednesday afternoon, this group of 15 men from the modest agricultural hub of Tancitaro were still hanging around Nueva Italia, their shotguns hidden away.