HomeNewsBriefMexico Vigilante Gun Battle Leaves 11 Dead
BRIEF

Mexico Vigilante Gun Battle Leaves 11 Dead

MEXICO / 17 DEC 2014 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

A two-hour gun battle between rival Rural Defense Force factions in Mexico reportedly left 11 people dead, a sign that elements of this government-supported force remain caught up in a conflict involving interests distinct from defending local communities from extortion and other threats.

The firefight took place December 16 in Michoacan state, a stronghold of Mexican vigilantism. It reportedly involved two vigilante groups that have long had a tense relationship -- one led by Luis Antonio Torres, alias "El Americano," a controversial figure who had previously been accused of criminal ties, and another led by Hipolito Mora, El Americano's rival, who is no stranger to controversy himself.

Six of El Americano's followers were left dead after the shootout, while five gunmen loyal to Mora were killed, including his son, according to El Universal

In an evening press conference, Michoacan security commissioner Alfredo Castillo said that authorities were investigating the incident, and added that there was no need to "martyrize" any of the victims. 

Both El Americano and Mora formed vigilante groups in rural Michoacan, purportedly to defend local communities from criminal groups such as the Knights Templar.

As detailed in InSight Crime's special investigation on Michoacan's vigilantes, the formation of these militias led to speculation they might actually be fronts for rival criminal groups to fight each other. Despite these reservations, the government tried to regulate the militias by integrating them into their official security strategy earlier this year, allowing them to apply to join a "Rural Defense Force" controlled by the army. 

InSight Crime Analysis

This gun battle was the culmination of a long-running feud between El Americano and Mora. Earlier this year, Mora was arrested for alleged involvement in the murder of two gunmen loyal to El Americano, but was released due to insufficient evidence. Mora accuses El Americano of working for the Knights Templar, while El Americano has thrown similar accusations at Mora. The death of Mora's son now gives him reason to pursue a personal vendetta against El Americano's forces, which does not bode well for Michoacan's security in the coming weeks.

As has been evident for awhile now, the interests driving the conflict between El Americano and Mora have never been as straightforward as a desire to protect locals from drug gangs.

SEE ALSO: Mexico's Security Dilemma: Michoacan's Vigilantes

Since the surge of militias in Michoacan began in 2013, many official authorities expressed doubts over the actual motives of these groups. Those who make up Michoacan's vigilantes are a disparate bunch, involving a wide range of actors, from former gang members deported back to Mexico from the US, to civilians with a sincere interest in protecting their communities. Catering to suspect interests was a risk that the government took on by legtimizing the vigilantes, and now Michoacan must deal with the fallout.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

JUDICIAL REFORM / 24 NOV 2016

Judges in Mexico have opened up about the intimidation they face from criminal groups, illustrating the importance of protective measures…

EXTORTION / 30 SEP 2019

Four competing drug cartels are extorting avocado producers in Michoacán, Mexico, showing how the fruit is becoming an increasingly important…

GUERREROS UNIDOS / 1 AUG 2016

Latin America's top regional human rights body has approved further measures to track the Mexican government's progress in its ongoing…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…