Tuesday 26 February 2013

Community cops, or cartel takeover? Michoacán town gets some “protection”

There's not much around Tepalcatepec
On Monday, February 25, about 500 masked men bearing AK-47s and travelling in luxury SUVs showed up in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán.

Claiming to be part of a new self-defence group, they took up positions at the entrances to the city. The hooded men were wearing white T-shirts with “For a free Tepalcatepec" (“Por un Tepalcatepec libre”) written in black letters.

Such groups have formed in Michoacán before, but this new development seems better organized and on a larger scale, such as has been seen in the mountains of coastal Guerrero.

Members of the newly minted “community police” said that they were being financially supported by local businesses, and that they were officially formed on Sunday, February 24.

But there is an unsettling wrinkle to this story.  Nowhere in Mexico do community police have access to AK-47s and luxury SUVs. Nor do they have 500 people. Nor do they bother to get T-shirts made.

In fact, Mexican press reports state that The Knights Templar (Los Caballeros Templarios) Cartel, speaking from its stronghold in nearby Apatzingán, has accused this group of belonging  to the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (Jalisco New Generation Cartel, or CJNG).

If true, then we have a remarkable development: a community where the local caciques openly side with one cartel over another, clearly stating by their actions that the government has no practical mandate or power in the area.

Perhaps CJNG took its cue from conciliatory language emanating from Mexico’s new government:

If you want to get up to speed on the changing criminal landscape in the region, read:

If you want to see what it looks like when the cartel rolls through town, see the video below of The Knights Templar  driving through Apatzingán, Michoacán, in 2011.  The convoy begins with a police escort, and then travels for almost three minutes, with many trucks having armed men openly displayed.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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