Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Colima braces for Caballeros Templarios, while Human Rights Comm'n. says there's no local law in Michoacán

*Updated Apr. 28*
Guadalajara -
The chair of Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) said yesterday there is "often a complete absence" of governmental authority at the county and municipal level in Michoacán state, where citizen militias continue to jockey with federal forces for control of local communities long ravaged by drug cartels and organized crime, the most powerful of which is Los Caballeros Templarios.

Federal troops and police entered the state in April 2013 in an effort to restore order. On Jan. 13 the administration beefed up the effort, but many areas remain far from secure according to daily news accounts by the Mexican press.

CNDH presiding officer Raúl Plascencia Villanueva urged the Michoacán state congress to declare a desaparición de poderes - the disappearance of lawful government - in some communities, an event which would have considerable legal consequences.

Article 76 of Mexico's federal constitution provides that "whenever the constitutional powers of a State have disappeared, the condition has arisen for appointment of a provisional governor, who shall call elections in accordance with the constitutional laws of the State. The appointment of a governor shall be made by the Senate from a list of three proposed by the President of the Republic, with approval of two thirds of the members present. The official appointed cannot be elected constitutional governor in the elections held pursuant to the call which he issues." Last fall some in Mexico's federal congress urged that just such a declaration be made in Michoacán, which would have resulted in the removal of PRI governor Fausto Vallejo, whom many hold responsible for relentless civil disorder in the state. But the proposal failed to garner sufficient legislative support, and the administration of president Enrique Peña Nieto, who leads the same party, quickly and quietly nixed the idea. Instead it sent in soldiers.

Michoacán's governor Fausto Vallejo has been in the eye of the storm as his state spiraled downward

The extraordinarily rare procedure provided for in Article 76 can also be used on a local level, if a state congress decides mayors or county aldermen are unwilling or unable to discharge their lawful duties. That's what CNDH maintains has happened in some Michoacán counties such as Apatzingán, long the fifedom of the Caballeros Templarios, one of Mexico's major drug trafficking cartels. On Tuesday it urged the state congress to declare an absence of lawful power after citizens in the county seat of the same name sized government buildings, claiming the mayor is in the pocket of organized crime.

"We're seeing that there is an incapacity on the part of county and city authorities to deliver public security, an absence of local government," CNDH said. "The state congress should formally dissolve nonfunctional governing bodies and replace them with new officials," the commission urged, referring also to dire security conditions in Coalcomán and Tepalcatepec. Those towns are near Michoacán's boundary with neighboring Jalisco state, where locals have reported that faux autodefensas - armed units masquerading as community militias, who are actually in the service of organized crime - are now appearing on the scene. On Jan. 30 Mexico's attorney general, Jesús Murrillo Karam, warned that some of Michoacán's policías comunitarias had been armed by competing cartels, most notably by the Jalisco based Cártel Nueva Generación (CJNG), or Matazetas (the "Zeta killers").

Interviewed by the Milenio news network today, a Michoacán state senator said the declaration sought by CNDH could not be ruled out and should be debated, despite assurances by members of Vallejo's administration that the state is secure and is being properly administered at the local level.

As the Templarios face increasing military and political pressure in Michoacán, authorities across the border in Colima, Mexico's smallest state by population with less than 700,000 residents, worry about what the future holds for them. A federal official acknowledged yesterday that the historically tranquil state with its popular seaside resort of Manzanillo, a few hours drive from Guadalajara, could become the Templarios new stomping grounds. Another Jalisco police officer executed near Manzanillo (Feb. 11, 2013).

Updates: Endless political corruption in Michoacán
Apr. 15 - Municipal president of Apatzingán, arrested for links to Los Caballeros Templarios
Apr. 28 - Municipal president of Lázaro Cárdenas, arrested for links to top boss of the Templarios, who remains on the lam. This YouTube clip uploaded by a Michoacán advocacy group shows the official meeting with "La Tuta" and others, where the men brazenly discussed how many legislators have been bought off in the state. It notes that political corruption crosses party lines - the mayor of Apatzingán is a member of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), while the mayor of the important port city of Lázaro Cárdenas belongs to the left wing Democratic Revolution Party (PRD).

Michoacán 2014
Mar. 22 - PAN boss: "There's no respect for life in Michoacán, nor a government"
Mar. 13 - In Michoacán, Peña Nieto makes no mention of "outside the law" citizen militias
Mar. 11 - Mexico arrests key community militia leader in Michoacán, on suspicion of murder
Feb. 17 - Michoacán belongs to organized crime: 55% of Mexicans
Feb. 14 - Michoacán, a deadly no man's land
Feb. 4 - In Michoacán, all the president's men arrive with cash and promises
Jan. 13 - Michoacán security accord more of the same old song

Michoacán 2013
July 25 - "Regrettably, parts of the state have passed into the hands of organized crime"
May 23 - Fiasco in Michoacán suggests little has changed under new government
March 6 - Peña Nieto's drug war czar says no to Mexican militias

Colima is the tiny Pacific coast state wedged between Jalisco and Michoacán

© MGR 2014. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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