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Thursday, 3 December 2015

In Michoacán, the unrest continues

The governor of the Mexican state of Michoacán, Silvano Aureoles, confirmed yesterday that the presence of armed groups – among them paramilitaries and criminals – has made it difficult for his government to maintain control over large areas of his state.
They want justice, and for an end to the violence

Only yesterday, armed men presumably linked to ‘Los Viagras’, a criminal gang, blocked roads in Michoacán.

In a recent interview, the governor said that ‘technically’ there was still conflict between paramilitary self-defense groups, known as autodefensas, and criminal gangs such as Los Viagras.

At times, security forces in Michoacán, as well as in other parts of Mexico, make a distinction between the two - at other times the autodefensas are treated like gangs themselves. On December 1, for example, the military detained two members of a self-defense force in Pinzandaro, within the Buenavista municipality in Michoacán. The result was that the local populace organized to demand their release, and briefly blocked the Apatzingan – Buenavista road with a vehicle and trailer.

The security situation is complicated by the fact that this part of Michoacán borders on the states of Jalisco and Guanajuato. To date there has been little effective inter-state coordination.

The use of the military to ensure order in Michoacán, as in other parts of Mexico, has had mixed results. Though the military tends not to be linked to local (i.e. municipal or state) corruption, as an organization it has little knowledge of policing. It is ill-equipped to collect evidence, or build relations with communities where it is active. And, inevitably, when an area is militarized there is a risk of human rights abuses.

In Michoacán, residents of Ixtapilla are still protesting the death of Edilberto Reyes Garcia, a 12-year-old boy allegedly shot on July 19 by the Mexican Army when they opened fire on a demonstration at a blockade, where local residents were throwing sticks and stones at the army. The boy was not a participant: he was simply eating a meal in a nearby restaurant when a bullet hit him.

And they are demanding the release of autodefensa leader Cemeí Verdía, who was detained by the military, also on July 19, while having breakfast in the community of La Placita, and who remains in custody. He faces charges of homicide related to events last May, when his group faced off against alleged gang members, killing four people. 

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

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