MORELIA, Mexico – The governor of the western Mexican state of Michoacan appealed to President Enrique Peña Nieto for federal help to impose order on three towns dominated by vigilantes.
Michoacan’s people must move from the culture of guns to the culture of peace to avert further bloodshed, Gov. Salvador Jara said as he reflected on a Dec. 16 clash between rival vigilante groups that left 11 people dead.
He announced that he had requested support from the army, the Federal Police and other federal bodies to detain all armed civilians in three towns, including La Ruana, the scene of last week’s battle.
“It is unacceptable for there to be armed civilians in Michoacan,” the governor said. “We will not tolerate it and we will act to begin the disarmament of any person or group.”
The Dec. 16 battle began when more than 80 vigilantes led by Luis Antonio Torres, known as “el Americano,” attacked a barricade manned by followers of Hipolito Mora, founder of the militia movement that arose in Michoacan nearly two years ago to protect communities from the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel.
One of Mora’s sons was among those killed in the confrontation.
Peña Nieto sent troops and Federal Police into Michoacan in January to suppress the conflict between the Templarios and the militias.
On March 7, two reputed Templarios gunmen who had infiltrated Torres’ organization were found slain.
Torres pointed the finger at Mora, who was arrested but ultimately released due to lack of evidence.
Many members of Michoacan militias, including the followers of both Mora and Torres, have signed up for a government-sanctioned rural security force.
Earlier this month, however, authorities notified 300 members of Torres’ faction that they had been disqualified from serving in the new organization.
The Torres group responded by blocking roads.
Residents of the area around La Ruana say the 300 Torres associates rejected by the rural security force have links to the Viagras, a group of hired guns who worked for the Templarios.