In news out of Mexico today the three sided Mexican standoff over armed vigilante groups has taken on an ‘official’ direction. The standoff arose between members of the Knights Templar drug cartel, government forces, and armed vigilante groups in Michoacan State, which lies just north west of Mexico City and stretches to the Pacific Coast. At the core of the issue are everyday Mexicans that believe they are not being protected from powerful drug cartels that produce and ship their produce to the United States. The armed vigilante groups claim to be fighting against kidnapping, violence, and extortion by the cartels.
The groups first started appearing in early 2013 and numerous clashes have taken place between the three parties, many in the neighboring state of Guerrero. The latest round of clashes occurred in and around the town of Apatzingan, the Templar cartel’s stronghold.
Apatzingan has experienced what some are calling a self imposed curfew as many local businesses have remained closed while the violence continues. When the government initially ordered the vigilantes to stand down and relinquish their arms, some vigilantes agreed, however that position has been reversed by many as they believe the government isn’t doing enough in protecting the locals from the cartels. The standoff between the army and vigilantes led to clashes in some cases as the vigilantes refused to lay down their weapons.
As the three sided standoff continued in Mexico, the government did an about face on Monday and announced that members of the 20,000 strong vigilante groups would be integrated into units called the ‘Rural Defense Corps.’ The vigilantes agreed and have now been legalized.
Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, Mexico’s Interior Minister, stated that the new units would be ‘temporary,’ and would be placed under government control where they could act in unison with government troops. As apart of the arrangement vigilante leaders are to provide the Defense Department with a list of vigilantes. The newly created forces will be overseen by the army and the vigilantes will be allowed to keep their weapons as long as they are first registered with the army.
The army, for its part according to the new agreement, will provide “all the means necessary for communications, operations and movement,” to the vigilantes.
The agreement has been welcomed by many as it brings the army and vigilantes onto the same side to combat a common foe, the Templar cartel.
The Templar cartel has four main leaders, one of which was captured on Monday by federal forces. They took Dionicio Loya Plancarte into custody without a shot being fired. Plancarte, aka El Tio, The Uncle, was found hiding in a closet in a house in Morelia, capital of Michoacan State. The 58-year-old had a $2.2 million bounty on his head.
With this latest twist to the three sided standoff in Michoacan State, Mexico, the sides have become more clearly defined, and could signal the beginning of the end for the Templar cartel. With the vigilantes joining forces with the military they may finally bring peace to the area and local populace.
By Scott Wilson