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Mexico legalizes country’s growing vigilante groups as they announce capture of senior Knights Templar drug cartel leader known as ‘The Uncle’

Posted on

28 January 2014 

  • Around 20,000 Mexicans have joined vigilante groups to  fight the drug cartels’ ‘reign of terror’ over civilians
  • The  government is now incorporating the groups into quasi-military  units
  • It comes as  one of the Knights Templar drug cartel founders was arrested
  • Dionicio  Loya  Plancarte, alias ‘El Tio’ or The Uncle, was captured in Morelia

 

Captured: Dionisio Loya Plancarte - one of the founders of the Knights Templar drug cartel known as 'The Uncle' - has been arrested after police found him hiding in a closet in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan

Captured: Dionisio Loya Plancarte – one of the founders  of the Knights Templar drug cartel known as ‘The Uncle’ – has been arrested  after police found him hiding in a closet in Morelia, the capital of  Michoacan

Mexico has legalized the country’s growing  vigilante groups as security forces revealed the capture of one of the four top  leaders of the Knights Templar drug cartel.

Thousands of Mexicans across the country have  joined the vigilante ‘self-defense’ groups to fight the drug cartels’ ‘reign of  terror’ over civilians.

The government yesterday announced it had  reached an agreement with the vigilante group leaders to incorporate the armed  civilian groups into old and largely forgotten quasi-military units called the  Rural Defense Corps. Vigilante groups estimate their numbers at 20,000 men under  arms.

It comes as soldiers and  police arrested one  of the cartel’s top leaders, Dionicio Loya  Plancarte, alias ‘El Tio’ or The  Uncle.

The twin announcements may help the  administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto find a way out of an embarrassing  situation in the western state of Michoacan, where vigilantes began rising up  last February against the Knights Templar reign of terror and extortion after  police and troops failed to stop the abuses.

‘The self-defense forces will become  institutionalized, when they are integrated into the Rural Defense Corps,’ the  Interior Department said in a statement.

Police and soldiers already largely tolerate,  and in some cases even work with, the vigilantes, many of whom are armed with  assault rifles that civilians are not allowed to carry.

Vigilante leaders will have to submit a list  of their members to the Defense Department, and the army will apparently oversee  the groups, which the government said ‘will be temporary’.

They will be allowed to keep their weapons  as long as they register them with the army.

Mexican vigilantes pictured in the village of Paracuaro in Michoacan state, an impoverished agricultural state about one and a half times the size of Switzerland, where they have been battling drug cartel the Knights Templar

Mexican vigilantes pictured in the village of Paracuaro  in Michoacan state, an impoverished agricultural state about one and a half  times the size of Switzerland, where they have been battling drug cartel the  Knights Templar

 

Stand off: Vigilantes stand at a checkpoint in Mugica near Apatzingan in Michoacan

Stand off: Vigilantes stand at a checkpoint in Mugica  near Apatzingan in Michoacan

The military will give the groups ‘all  the  means necessary for communications, operations and movement,’  according to the  agreement.

The  vigilante leaders, who include farmers, ranchers and some professionals,  gathered on Monday to discuss the agreement, but it was not yet clear for them  what it would imply. It wasn’t known if the army would offer anyone salaries.

Misael Gonzalez, a leader of the self-defense  force in the town of Coalcoman, said leaders had accepted the government  proposal. But the nuts-and-bolts ‘are still not well defined’, he added. ‘We  won’t start working on the mechanisms until tomorrow.’

Vigilante leader Hipolito Mora said in a  television interview that the agreement also allows those who qualify to join  local police forces.

Mexico captures alleged senior Knights Templar  drug gang boss

A member of the community police points a weapon at a deceased member of the Knights Templar cartel after a clash near the village of Paracuaro in Michoacan state

A member of the community police points a weapon at a  deceased member of the Knights Templar cartel after a clash near the village of  Paracuaro in Michoacan state

 

Vigilantes stand guard after hearing rumours of a possible ambush in Tierra Caliente, Michoacan

Vigilantes stand guard after hearing rumours of a  possible ambush in Tierra Caliente, Michoacan

 

‘The majority of us want to get into  the  police … I never imagined myself dressed as a policeman, but the  situation is  driving me to put on a uniform.’

Latin America has been bruised by experiences  with quasi-military forces,  with such tolerated or legally recognized groups  being blamed for rights abuses in Guatemala and Colombia in the past.

While the cartel may be on its way out,  ‘there shouldn’t be abuses by those who come after, there shouldn’t be what we  would call a witch hunt; there should be reconciliation’, said the Rev. Javier  Cortes, part of a team of priests in the Roman Catholic diocese of Apatzingan  who have publicly denounced abuses by the Knights Templar.

The arrest of one of the cartel’s top  leaders, Dionicio Loya Plancarte known as ‘The Uncle’, is a big step in the  fight against the drug lords.

Vigilantes, who have been fighting the drug cartel across swathes of the failing Michoacan state, are pictured in the town of Nueva Italia after seizing control

Vigilantes, who have been fighting the drug cartel  across swathes of the failing Michoacan state, are pictured in the town of Nueva  Italia after seizing control

 

National Public Safety System secretary Monte  Rubido said the feared cartel leader was arrested without a shot being fired.

He said federal forces found Loya Plancarte  in Morelia, the capital of  Michoacan, ‘hiding in a closet’ and accompanied only  by 16-year-old boy.

The 58-year-old Loya  Plancarte had a  30-million peso ($2.25 million) reward on his head from  the Mexican government  for drug, organized crime and money-laundering  charges. He was considered one  of the country’s three dozen most-wanted  drug lords in the late 2000s.

Loya Plancarte got his nickname, ‘The Uncle,’  because he is believed to be the uncle of another top Knights Templar leader,  Enrique Plancarte Solis.

Loya Plancarte joined Plancarte Solis and  Servando Gomez in forming the  Knights Templar after the purported death of  Nazario Moreno.

Armed: The vigilantes, pictured in Paracuaro, will now be incorporated into quasi-military units and fight alongside the police against the drug cartels

Armed: The vigilantes, pictured in Paracuaro, will now  be incorporated into quasi-military units and fight alongside the police against  the drug cartels

 

A local journalist from Michoacan recounted  watching when Loya Plancarte  led a sort of pilgrimage to a shrine erected to  Nazario Moreno and had  his assistants hand out 500-peso ($37) bills to people  who attended.

The Knights Templar ruled many parts of  Michoacan with an iron fist,  demanding extortion payments from businesses,  farmers and workers, but  the self-defense groups have gained ground against the  cartel in recent  months.

Federal police and army troops were  dispatched to bring peace to the troubled region, but the vigilantes have  demanded the arrest of the cartel’s major leaders before they lay down their  guns.

Ramon Contreras, an activist in the vigilante  movement from the town of La Ruana, which was the first to rise up against the  Knights Templar, said the arrest ‘means a lot’ to the vigilantes, but added that  they won’t rest until they see all the top bosses arrested.

Contreras voiced a common belief that the man  who founded the cartel under the name La Familia Michoacana, Nazario Moreno,  alias ‘El Chayo’, is still alive, despite the government’s statement in 2010  that he had been killed in a shootout with federal forces.

‘He’s still alive; there’s proof he’s still  alive,’ Contreras said.

 

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2547230/Mexico-legalizes-countrys-growing-vigilante-groups-announce-capture-senior-Knights-Templar-drug-cartel-leader-known-The-Uncle.html

 

 

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Spreading the word about the dangers of methamphetamine.

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