And, so… we’re told… it’s over. Or has just begun.
Within hours of the the arrival of federal soldiers in Hercules helicopters sent in to “disarm” the self-defense groups in Michoacán, at least three adults and an eleven year old child were killed, while at least in one community, the local population disarmed the first convoy of soldiers and later hostilities (unspecified) occurred (Revolución Tres Punto Cero). Dr. José Manuel Mireles Valverde, the obstetrician who has become the public face of the movement, was reportedly arrested, after — according to Televisa — ordering the self-defense groups to lay down their arms.
The “self-defense groups” throughout the State of Michoacán have been painted in the foreign press as “vigilantes” — a word meaning nothing more sinister than “watchmen” in Spanish, but having overtones of out-of-control lynch mobs in English.
Outside of Mireles (who, in the pro-government press, is called “Doctor” Mirales… the quote marks around his title meant to suggest he isn’t a real doctor, although he has a medical degree and has been running a clinic for years), the leaders, and soldiers, in the self-defense groups have been far more typically farmers, shop-keepers and even housewives.
“Remember that we are civilians, we’re working people,” Dr. Mirales said last night in an interview, denying reports that he ordered his group to lay down their arms. “We had been asking for help for the last twelve years without any response.”
These civilians have shown remarkable discipline, taking over municipal governments, and disarming (and replacing) local police departments, less a mob than a people’s militia… which is precisely what has made them a danger to the state.
The spin has been that the self-defense groups are too well armed and too well organized to be simply angry farmers and shop-keepers. State and federal officials have suggested the self-defense groups are just driving out the Knights Templars … the oddball name chosen by the local organized gangsters… but are working for other “cartels”. That story makes little sense, given that violence against local communities (involving more than marijuana farming, but illegal timber harvesting, and even mining operations) for at least the twelve years Dr. Mirales mentions, and… until very recently… the weapons were more in the nature of old shotguns and hunting rifles than AK-47s and military rifles.
Certainly, it is possible that the local groups (which are often indigenous communities) have ties to the underworld … which means very little, other than if they wanted arms, they had to buy them from the people who sold them. More likely is the story told by the defense groups themselves that they disarmed police departments, received some surreptitiously from the Army (which often as not considered the defense groups as unofficial allies in fighting gangsters) and acquired others as “war spoils.”
According to this map (from Resistencia Mexico TV) posted yesterday, the defense groups were “winning” against the gangsters, the Templars controlling only Nueva Italia:
At which time, with a self-defense group seizing the local police in the last stronghold of the Templars, the Federal Government declared the state government unable to control the situation (which is true, though the citizens seemed to be doing a good job of at least getting rid of the gangsters, and the corrupt local police) and sent in the troops.