HomeNewsBriefMexico Vigilante Legalization Raises Paramilitary Concerns
BRIEF

Mexico Vigilante Legalization Raises Paramilitary Concerns

KNIGHTS TEMPLAR / 28 JAN 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

Self-defense forces in Michoacan, Mexico have signed an agreement with federal and regional authorities, a move that raises the specter of the paramilitary death squads in Colombia, Guatemala and Peru that flourished with state collaboration.

The eight-point agreement, signed by 30 vigilante leaders on January 27, stipulates that the self-defense forces will be incorporated into Rural Defense Units and will work to assist municipal security forces, reported Animal Politico. It also states that vigilantes must provide a list of their members and register all arms currently in their possession.

Additionally, it requires the Michoacan Commission for Security and Integral Development — a body recently set up by President Enrique Peña Nieto to coordinate security efforts in the region — to work closely with municipal governments and provide any needed assistance.

Alfredo Castillo, the federal commissioner for security and development, called the measure “a powerful step towards ensuring that security and development strategies see results,” reported Milenio.

Earlier the same day, security forces arrested Dionisio Loya Plancarte, the alleged second-in-command of the Knights Templar criminal organization, in Morelia, Michoacan, reported Milenio. Plancarte has been linked with the murder of federal police officers and is thought to be responsible for drug trafficking operations in Morelia.

InSight Crime Analysis

This agreement comes after violence exploded in Michoacan during January, as federal troops moved in to disarm vigilante groups that had taken over various municipalities. At the time, self-defense leaders refused to lay down their arms. This challenge to state authority likely influenced the decision to negotiate with the vigilantes, a process that has seen authorities increase efforts to arrest the Knights Templar leadership.

While the move may receive significant public backing, it is not clear whether the self-defense forces have ulterior motives. Authorities have in the past accused members of ties to the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation, a Knights rival. The forces are powerful, with a proven capacity to overrun towns, hold soldiers hostage and acquire illegal high caliber weapons.

In this context, legalization brings to the fore a concern that has been brewing about these groups for some time: the possibility that they could convert into paramilitary forces of the kind seen historically in Colombia, Guatemala and Peru.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Vigilantes

It is no secret that the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) and their predecessors enjoyed collaboration from state security forces. These forces engaged in widespread human rights abuses and massacres in the name of fighting left wing guerrillas, while simultaneously profiting from the drug trade. Civilian militias armed by the Guatemalan and Peruvian militaries to quell guerrilla uprisings also committed similar abuses, so how the legalized Michoacan vigilantes evolve will be a subject of interest.

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.

Related Content

HUMAN RIGHTS / 20 MAY 2016

Mexico's proposal to use GPS tracking to prevent torture by security officials is another example of unnecessarily elaborate fixes to…

GENDER AND CRIME / 14 JAN 2020

A woman from Mexico’s drug trade heartland has been convicted in the United States for leading a sophisticated international trafficking…

COCA / 17 MAR 2017

In our March 16 Facebook Live videocast, InSight Crime Senior Investigators Deborah Bonello and Héctor Silva Ávalos, and Senior Editor…

Institutional Content

THE ORGANIZATION

Strategic Communications Manager Job Description

12 FEB 2021

InSight Crime is looking for a full-time strategic communications manager. This person needs to be able to work in a fast-paced world of daily news, high-profile investigations, national and international…

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …