Thursday, April 3, 2014
Mexico says it will disarm citizen militias
At a joint press conference this afternoon, Mexican Secretary of Government Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong and the Federal Security Commissioner for Michoacán, Alfredo Castillo, announced that the country's hundreds of citizen militias, known here as autodefensas or policías comunitarias, will be disarmed.
The officials set no time table for the process, but Castillo said that those who refuse to hand over their arms "will face the consequences."
The autodefensas, a phenomenon which first appeared on Mexico's political stage in early 2013, now have a significant presence in more than a dozen states. But they are particularly linked to chronic regional insecurity in the Pacific coast states of Michoacán and Guerrero, where warring drug cartels have wreaked havoc for years.
Osorio Chong and Castillo said that great progress has been made in Michoacán, where the two men appeared side by side today to make an announcement which will surely be regarded as a direct challenge to the citizen police forces. They said the autodefensas are no longer needed, and will have no role in maintaining the peace there. Federal troops and police flooded the state in May 2013, and reinforcements were added in January. In a desperate effort to jump start the state's economy and remove it from the clutches of organized crime, on Feb. 4 the administration announced a massive $3.4 billion dollar multi-sector investment package. All the president's men arrive with cash, promises.
Although security has improved in many rural areas, Mexican news sources reported this week that violence has surged in some parts of the state capital of Morelia.
Michoacán autodefensas are said to be operating in at least 93 towns and 44 of the troubled state's 113 counties.
In January president Enrique Peña Nieto's attorney general, Jesús Murillo Karam, acknowledged that some Michoacán militiamen were armed by a violent Jalisco drug cartel, which has an operational presence in the state. On Mar. 13 the chair of Mexico's Human Rights Commission said the country's autodefensas are entirely "outside the law," noting that several of their leaders have criminal records and have been charged with serious offenses, including murder. Karam agrees, commenting recently that "a little of everything" is present in the militias.
Three weeks ago the leader of 27 citizen militias in Michoacán published an autodefensas manifesto, saying that community police forces would never give up what he called an inherent right to engage in acts of self-defense. On Tuesday he repeated the point, hours after Mexican marines cornered and killed a top boss of the state's dreaded Los Caballeros Templarios drug cartel in Querétaro state.
Spokesmen for the militias, which have been equally defiant in Guerrero, have not yet responded to the government's announcement.
Apr. 15 - Federals, Michoacán militias reach deal on disarmament
Apr. 7 - Michoacán militias resist, as federals move to disarm
Apr. 5 - Michoacán autodefensas disagree on whether to yield to the government's demand
Mar. 16 - Defiant civilian militias announce rupture with Mexico City
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
Aug. 25 - Civilian militias soar, with citizen police now patrolling 50 counties in 13 Mexican states
Apr. 11 - Is Michoacán a failed state?
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at 4:40 PM