HomeNewsBriefMexico Vigilantes' Protection Fees Echo Colombia's Paramilitaries
BRIEF

Mexico Vigilantes' Protection Fees Echo Colombia's Paramilitaries

EXTORTION / 5 FEB 2014 BY MICHAEL LOHMULLER EN

Mexico mining companies extorted by criminal groups are reportedly paying Michoacan self-defense forces for protection, a development that places the groups on a disturbingly similar path to that taken by the paramilitary groups that terrorized Colombia.

A vigilante leader known as "El Americano" said that mining companies present in Tepalcatepec and Buenavista in Michoacan are paying self-defense groups $3 to $5 per ton of minerals to protect them from extortion by the Knights Templar criminal organization, reported Imagen del Golfo.

 The Knights have been a major player in extorting the state's mining sector, which produces around 25 percent of Mexico's iron. Last June, it was revealed that the mining company Minera del Norte was paying the Knights Templar $2 per ton of minerals it extracted weekly in the region.

Michoacan's self-defense groups also appear to be becoming more sophisticated. According to a report by El Universal, they have developed a quasi-military structure with a command hierarchy and even accountants, and have recruited a cell of former Knights Templar hitmen to spearhead their attacks.

The militias are now armed with over 16,000 weapons -- many of them high caliber firearms like AK-47s -- according to Animal Politico. Under a legalization agreement recently signed with the government, the vigilantes are required to register their guns, and are only allowed two per person operating in the new Rural Defense Units. However, just over 800 weapons have been registered to date.

Militia members said they seized some of the weapons from the Knights Templar, while others were purchased on the black market. They denied claims they had bought weapons from rival drug cartels.

InSight Crime Analysis

One of the principal fears surrounding the legalization of Michoacan's vigilante groups is that they could turn into deadly paramilitary forces akin to those seen previously in Colombia, Guatemala and Peru.

Although the militias remain some distance from reaching this point, the fact that mining companies are now helping finance these groups is worryingly reminiscent of Colombia's paramilitaries. One of the driving forces behind the formation and growth of the Colombian groups was businesses tired of extortion at the hands of the country's leftist guerrilla groups, which were willing to fund the paramilitaries in return for protection.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Mexico Vigilantes

Within a matter of years, the paramilitaries were earning vast profits from protection money, whether it was provided voluntarily by complicit businesses or extorted at the point of a gun. 

The unknown origins and military grade of the groups' weapons, along with their apparent recruitment of personnel from drug cartels is also a major concern, and also echoes the development of Colombia's paramilitaries into a fearsome military operation heavily involved in the drug trade.

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

MEXICO / 27 FEB 2012

Mexican border city Juarez, formerly the most dangerous place in the world, made significant security advances in 2011. But this…

DRUG POLICY / 10 JUN 2014

Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto has said he is willing to discuss legalizing marijuana, becoming the latest regional leader to…

MEXICO / 12 DEC 2018

In the fourth season of Netflix’s Narcos, actor Tenoch Huerta’s portrayal of Mexico drug kingpin Rafael Caro Quintero steals the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Criminal Enterprise on the High Seas

12 AUG 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the second half of an extensive investigation into Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing that plagues the waters of nine Latin American countries. Among the stories were how…

THE ORGANIZATION

Oceans Pillaged in Central America and the Caribbean

5 AUG 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the first installment of a nine-part investigation uncovering the hidden depths of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Latin America. The first installment covered Central America and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela’s Tren de Aragua Becomes Truly Transnational

29 JUL 2022

This week, InSight Crime published a deep dive into the total control that Venezuelan mega-gang, Tren de Aragua, has over the lives of those it smuggles between Venezuela and Chile…

THE ORGANIZATION

Turkish Traffickers Delivering Latin American Cocaine to Persian Gulf

15 JUL 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the second half of an investigation piecing together the emerging role of Turkish cocaine traffickers in supplying Russia and the Persian Gulf, which are among…

THE ORGANIZATION

Turkey as a Lynchpin in European Cocaine Pipeline

8 JUL 2022

InSight Crime is extending its investigation into the cocaine pipeline to Europe, and tracking the growing connections between Latin American drug traffickers and European criminal organizations. This led us to…