The strength of the community defense group movement in Michoacan state caught the government by surprise. Now the federal government is playing political catch-up. Originally the government described the local defense groups as vigilantes. Group members, however, disagreed and when they had the chance they spoke with reporters and authorities who actually visited the small towns and villages the groups were trying to protect. Some government departments still refer to the groups as vigilantes but the tone has changed and so has the relationship. The government now intends to turn the self-defense groups into rural defense organizations (Rurales). No doubt drug cartels run a handful of defense groups in Michaocan; cartels also control several municipal police departments in the state. However, the majority of the local defense groups are desperate people who took up arms to defend their homes and families because the local police were either crooked or absent. The government failed to protect them from well-armed and organized criminal gangs. Government security officials now concede that most of the groups are legitimate. Several security organizations are cooperating with the self-defense militias. (Austin Bay)
February 10, 2014: Police have found the remains of several hundred people (perhaps 500 bodies) scattered along a highway in outside of Piedras Negras (Coahuila state). The road runs through ranch-land not far from Coahuila’s border with the state of Texas. Investigators assigned to look for missing people murdered by cartel gunmen discovered the bodies. Coahuila state detectives have arrested ten people believed to be involved with dumping the bodies. Los Zetas cartel is the most powerful criminal group in Coahuila state.
February 9, 2014: Federal police arrested Tirso Martinez Sanchez, who is accused of smuggling over 75 tons of cocaine into the US and Europe.
February 8, 2014: Federal police and a group of self-defense organizations in Michoacan state took control of the town of Apatzingan. Community defense militias had been skirmishing with Knights Templar gunmen in and around the city for several weeks. In mid-2013 the cartel clearly controlled the town. In October 2013 a militia group tried to enter the city but soldiers would not let them come in while carrying their weapons. Militia spokesmen accused the military of siding with the drug cartels. Since October the government’s opinion of the local defense groups has evolved. One militia group claimed that its fighters had helped the police identify cartel hideouts. So far over 200 cartel gunmen have been arrested because of that.
February 4, 2014: the central bank reported that in 2013 Mexico received approximately $21.6 billion in remittances from Mexicans working abroad. That is down almost four percent from 2012. The vast majority of remittances comes from Mexican citizens working in the US.
February 1, 2014: Mexican Army soldiers fought drug cartel gunmen in two operations in Tamaulipas state (Mexico-Texas border). Three gunmen were arrested in the town of Apliacion Rodriguez (suburb of the city of Reynosa) after the gunmen fired on an Army patrol. The soldiers also seized four rifles and over 800 rounds of ammunition. Soldiers also engaged gunmen in the town of Camargo. The gunmen were traveling in three armor-plated pickup trucks. The gunmen fired on a group of soldiers (likely at a checkpoint) then fled. Soldiers returned fire and stopped one vehicle. Though the gunmen escaped, soldiers seized the armored pickup truck, some rifles and over 1,400 round s of ammunition.
January 30, 2014: Soldiers arrested Ruben Oseguera Gonzalez, deputy commandante of the Jalisco New Generation cartel. Soldiers and police cordoned off the town of Zapopan (Jalisco state, a suburb of Guadalajara) then moved in to arrest Oseguera Gonzalez in his villa. Police also seized cash and weapons in the raid.
New legislation allowing Mexican representatives in the assembly (lower house) to run for re-election have become law. The ban on second terms began in the 1920s. Reformers contend that deserving politicians will be re-elected based on job performance. Legislators in the assembly may run for up to four consecutive terms (terms of three years).
January 28, 2014: The Rurales rise again. The government confirmed that community self-defense groups which agree to conform to basic standards of training and discipline will be allowed to become units in a revitalized Rural Defense Corps. The state and federal government considered reviving the old Rurales security program in 2013, and earlier. The plan then was for the community defense militias to become semi-official rural security units. The original Rurales were a 19th century innovation, similar to the Texas Rangers and RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and were disbanded in 1914 for being corrupt. In the 1920s a volunteer defense force for farmers, the CDR (Cuerpo de Defensa Rural or Rural Defense Corps) was formed but it never caught on or became very efficient. The current comunitarios are effective because they are local and serving to defend themselves against a very real danger. The 19th century Rurales were mobile rural police professionals while the CDR were unpaid and government regulated volunteers. There was always the fear that the comunitarios could turn into criminals or troublesome vigilantes. But at the moment that fear is less terrifying than the rural violence created by the drug gangs. The government concluded that these 21st century Rurales are the real deal and worth supporting.
January 27, 2014: During the six weeks the government has reinforced federal police units operating in Michoacan state. Community self-defense groups in the state have said they are willing to stand down if the government demonstrates that it can provide security for their towns and farms.
January 25, 2014: Sporadic commemorations of the Zapatista’s 1994 short-lived anti-NAFTA uprising in Chiapas state continue to occur. Political activists claim that poverty in the state has increased in the last two decades but the revolution succeeded in changing the outlook of the Mayans. At a commemorative event held in January, one former leader claimed that the Zapatista movement is no longer a rebel movement but a political organization dedicated to defending the rights of indigenous people.
January 20, 2014: The military takeover of the port of Lazara Cardenas (Michoacan state) in November 2013 has sparked a new media industry. The common theme is that the drug trafficking cartels have become logistics operations. The fact is they were logistics operations from the beginning. Smuggling is about moving goods. What has changed is the goods the cartels are moving. Investigators in December and January reported that the cartels (the Knights Templar in particular) were trying to take control of the shipment of mineral ores (iron, for example) from western Mexico to Asia.
January 19, 2014: Citizens of Michaocan state are claiming government security forces overreacted on January 14. Security forces (probably an army unit) fought with a community self-defense group near the town of Apatzingan and eventually twelve died in two clashes in small towns outside of the city. Seven civilians died in the town of Mugical while two civilians and three soldiers were slain in Paracuaro. The self-defense militia announced that it was going to enter Aptazingan and arrest Knights Templar cartel gunmen. The government claimed that security forces ordered the militia to stand down and the militia refused. Federal police have promised to investigate the incident. Political leaders have promised citizens and embers of the self-defense militias that security forces will re-establish order in Aptazingan.