HomeNewsBriefRuling in Mexico Vigilantes Case Raises Demobilization Legal Issues
BRIEF

Ruling in Mexico Vigilantes Case Raises Demobilization Legal Issues

MEXICO / 16 JUL 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

A federal judge in Mexico has ruled in favor of three vigilantes accused of carrying illegal arms on the grounds they were defending themselves in the face of the state’s failure to do so, throwing a new legal obstacle in the path of attempts to dismantle illegal self-defense militias. 

In an interview with Noticias MVS, Leonel Rivero — the lawyer of the three vigilantes from Aquila in the southwest state of Michoacan — said the judge ruled they had defended their right to life by carrying weapons intended for the exclusive use of the military. The defendents argued the failure of the state to provide security and combat criminal groups left them with little choice but to break the law to defend themselves.

While the three men continue to be held on kidnapping charges, Rivero has said there is no chance of the arms charges being reactivated. 

The men were the alleged leaders of a group of 40 militiamen captured in August 2013, 18 of which have faced charges. Rivero accused Michoacan Security Commissioner Alfredo Castillo of interfering in judicial proceedings in the case by sending state lawyers to coax away the other 15, who Rivero was also supposed to defend, reported Proceso.

InSight Crime Analysis

Since January this year, Mexican authorities have been working to regulate the activities of the self-defense militias, which emerged with the proclaimed purpose of protecting local communities from the actions of organized crime groups such as the Knights Templar. The legalization process began with the creation of a legal framework for the vigilantes and later the formation of a “Rural Defense Force” made up of vigilantes that would work together with government security forces.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Mexico Vigilantes 

As part of this process, all vigilantes not drawn into the new force were required to hand over their weapons. The consequences of failing to comply were made clear in late June, when vigilante leader Jose Manuel Mireles was arrested along with dozens of others after taking over a Michoacan town. 

However, the government has faced significant public resistance to the dismantling of unauthorized vigilante groups, and the present case shows they may also have trouble prosecuting non-compliant vigilantes. If the government is unable to make the legal cases against arrested vigilantes hold up, it is a sign they have little control over the movement and thus puts the legalization process at risk. 

Security analyst Alejandro Hope told InSight Crime that the case represented a “symbolic… defeat of the federal government.” It did not, however, set a legal precedent for future cases — five consecutive sentences of a similar nature would have to be issued in order for this to happen, he said. 

While the present case could be appealed by the Attorney General’s Office, this is unlikely to happen, said Hope, partly because the government will want to avoid further stoking the fire in a high-tension issue. 

Compartir icon icon icon

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

MEXICO / 10 JUN 2013

One of Mexico's main political parties has withdrawn from local elections in Chihuahua state after candidates received death threats from…

GUATEMALA / 4 NOV 2011

Plaza Publica investigates a vigilante group that has sprung up in a popular tourist destination in southwest Guatemala, where residents…

JALISCO CARTEL / 13 MAR 2012

The capture of the leader of an emerging gang in Guadalajara sparked days of chaos, suggesting the CJNG still has…

About InSight Crime

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. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…