Wed, Sep 04, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Mexican official denies vigilante groups returned

AP, MEXICO CITY

State and local officials in western Mexico on Monday disputed whether the old vigilante “self-defense” movement has reawakened or whether recent confrontations were just turf battles between gangs.

The 2013-2014 vigilante movement took control of large swaths of western Michoacan State, purportedly to expel the old Knights Templar drug cartel.

The “self-defense” groups were largely disarmed after the government sent in thousands of police and troops; officials argued many vigilante groups had been infiltrated by rival gangs.

Over the weekend, vigilantes in the town of Tepalcatepec said they had fought off a massive attack by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and posted videos showing hundreds of purported vigilante fighters and shot-up pickup trucks surrounded by bodies.

Michoacan State prosecutors said only one body was officially found following the confrontation, but about a dozen people had been wounded.

State officials said the videos showing numerous bodies could have been taken at other times and places.

However, town officials in Tepalcatepec were so shaken they announced on Monday that they were canceling classes and Sept. 15-16 independence day celebrations.

Tepalcatepec Mayor Felipe Martinez said in a statement that “we fear more kinds of attacks.”

However, Michoacan Governor Silvano Aureoles denied there was any resurgence of the vigilante movement, saying the confrontations had been magnified and were turf battles between drug gangs.

Aureoles said the vigilantes in Tepalcatepec — the home town of vigilante leader Jose Mireles — were simply fighting over turf and drug routes with the Jalisco cartel, which he referred to as the “four letters,” a reference to the group’s Spanish initials: CJNG.

“These are rivalries and quarrels between them, and not for charitable purposes,” Aureoles said. “This is obviously a struggle over territory and shipment routes.”

Aureoles has criticized federal officials for not cracking down hard enough on drug cartels and for holding talks with some vigilante groups, who he describes as nothing more than criminals.

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