6 January 2014
- Residents living in fear of violent criminal gangs in south-west Mexico are taking matters into their own hands
- Yesterday 600 vigilantes seized control of town of Paracuaro in Michoacan state in bloody battle that left one dead
- Convoy of ‘autodefensas’, or self-defence groups, drove into the town controlled by drugs gang in blacked-out SUVs
- They took back control from the Cabelleros Templarios (Knights Templar) gang which terrorised local residents
- In neighbouring Guerrero state, vigilante group the Public Safety System marched in honour of first anniversary
Hundreds of armed vigilantes stormed a Mexican town and arrested federal police in the latest bloody battle between residents, criminal gangs, and the police locals say are in league with the gang members.
Around 600 members of local ‘autodefensas’, or self-defence groups, stormed Paracuaro in the troubled Michoacan state yesterday in an attempt to seize control of the town back from the feared Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) drug cartel.
The battle was the latest in a long-running war between the drugs gang in Mexico’s south-west and local residents who say state and federal police are not protecting them.
Taking matters into their own hands: Hundreds of residents joined forces to storm Paracuaro, headquarters of the Caballeros Templarios gang, yesterday
Small groups of local vigilantes took up arms and joined forces to storm Paracuaro, headquarters of the Knights Templar gang, where they arrested police officers and seized control of the town in a blaze of gunfire.
They drove into the town in black armoured vehicles shouting ‘Don’t be frightened, we are vigilantes’, before expelling drugs traffickers, whom they accuse of kidnapping people and bribing them to make money. Several gun battles were reported, leaving at least one dead.
Police officers, whom the vigilantes accuse of being in league with the cash-rich drug gangs, were rounded up by machine-gun toting locals, along with others suspected of associating with gang members, and a checkpoint was set up at the entrance to Paracuaro.
On the highway leading to Paracuaro, traffic was stopped after a bus was set ablaze, allegedly by gang members.
Michoacan has been rocked by repeated explosions of civil unrest since February last year, as vigilante groups have sprung up in communities where people say they are not being protected from drugs trafficking gangs.
Over in the neighbouring state of Guerrero, which produces half of Mexico’s heroin and is riddled with drugs gangs, members of the Public Safety System, or the Guerrero community police, marched yesterday to commemorate the first anniversary of their foundation in Ayutla de los Libres.
Insecurity dominates the lives of millions of Mexicans, for whom taking the law into their own hands has become the only option. Drugs cartels make millions of dollars producing and selling drugs, so the land where they produce opium poppies and marijuana is highly prized and often fought over.
Meanwhile yesterday an outspoken doctor who leads a vigilante group was injured when his plane crashed in western Mexico, killing one man.
Dr Jose Manuel Mireles suffered a dislocated jaw and head injuries after his plane crashed near the town of La Huacana yesterday.