Autodefensas say they're not backing off
Federal and state authorities convened a heavily advertised security conference today in Morelia, capital of Michoacán. Almost seven months ago the current PRI administration poured thousands of federal police and troops into the violent zone in an effort to subdue it, as did former PAN president Felipe Calderón in the opening act of the drug war in 2006. But things have gone from bad to worse.
The purpose of today's conference was to announce more of the same. Authorities signed an agreement formally transferring large sections of the state to direct federal police control. The conference, and federal intrusion into the aptly named Tierra Caliente (hot lands), was at the urging of Michoacán governor Fausto Vallejo, whom some hold accountable for the near anarchy in his state. Mexico City also promised to pump another 250 million pesos ($20 million dollars) into state security.
Large sections of the state are under the control of Los Caballeros Templarios, a drug cartel which has killed off or bought off local police forces for years. In response, since early 2013 citizen militias have taken the law into their own hands under the name of autodefensas. Mexico's troublesome policías comunitarias will prompt some to argue failed state theories. They have been spreading like wildfire in Michoacán in recent weeks, and have a substantial presence elsewhere, too. Meanwhile, narco terrorism rages on unabated in Michoacán, where anything and anybody may be targeted.
Beleaguered PRI governor Fausto Vallejo, caught in the crossfire between traffickers and militiamen
Support for the militias is be no means universal. Many citizens are strongly opposed to the heavily armed autodefensas patrolling their own communities, which has in turn prompted anti-autodefensas. There are persistent rumors that some militias may be drug cartel enforcement squads.
As the lead speaker at today's conference, secretary of government Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong drew a line in the sand. He said the autodefensas must put down their arms and agree to be integrated into or replaced by legitimate security forces. "The administration will not tolerate militias," Osorio Chong told his audience, promising that those who act outside of the law will be dealt with severely. But the government said exactly the same thing almost a year ago. EPN drug war czar rejects militias.
The leader of one militia force responded that his units would disassemble "once the government arrests the top seven cartel leaders in this state," implying their identity has long been known to federal and state authorities.
Another attendee at the conference was Mexico's top law enforcement office, attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam, who said an amazing thing once the meeting had adjourned. Questioned by a reporter, "Does immediate mean immediate? Will security forces begin shutting down the militias and stripping them of their weapons?", his response was, "It all depends on contingencies and circumstances."
That's why what MGR wrote about Michoacán last May remains as true today as it was then: "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Michoacán fiasco suggests little has changed under new government.
Feb. 7 - Federal troops will remain in Michoacán until at least through September 2015, a reliable Mexican news source reported today. That's when the state's very weak and ineffective PRI governor (above) will leave office, much to the delight of many residents (Michoacán priest tells congregation that their governor was in full collusion with the Templarios).
Feb. 9 - It's the beginning of the end for Los Caballeros Templarios in Michoacán, some argue.
Mar. 16 - Defiant civilian militias announce rupture with Mexico City
Jan. 31 - Mexican prosecutor: Jalisco drug cartel armed Michoacán autodefensas
Jan. 26 - Templarios gunmen arrested in Guadalajara metro
Jan. 26 - 20 Michoacán police officers charged as "Zeta killers"
Jan 17 - In a devastating report on the economic consequences of Michoacán insecurity in 2013, a federal agency noted today that the already impoverished state lost over 20,000 jobs last year - the only one of Mexico's 32 states whose labor market contracted instead of expanded.
Jan. 15 - A Catholic bishop criticized the plan to disarm the militias, questioning whether authorities have the resolve to deal with organized crime in one of the most out of control regions of Michoacán.
Jan.14 - Más de lo mismo, estrategia para Michoacán
2013 violence in Michoacán
Oct. 28 - Cartel attacks power plants, gasoline stations in violent Michoacán
Aug. 25 - Civilian militias soar, with citizen police now patrolling 50 counties in 13 Mexican states
July 28 - Mexican vice admiral killed in further Michoacán violence
July 25 - Federals will remain in Michoacán, promises Peña Nieto
July 24 - Mexican army units fortify Jalisco-Michoacán border
July 23 - Michoacán erupts; 22 dead as regional violence escalates
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