Mexican Militias Fight Government Disarmament

Armed self-defense units guard an entrance into the town of Nueva Italia in Mexico's embattled Michoacan state on Jan. 15, 2014. (Tim Johnson/MCT)

The American mainstream media has ignored the ongoing crisis in Mexico, as autodefensa groups struggle to stave off government disarmament. [borderlandbeat.com update after the jump.] president Pena Nieto’s sent troops into the Tierra Caliente to “convince” locals to surrender their weapons – despite the fact that he has not, as promised, rid the area of narco-terrorists. On Monday, Reforma newspaper reported that self-defense groups in Tierra Caliente have blocked 27 highways to prevent military convoys from entering their territory. The government response [via an unnamed official]:  “They have to turn in (their weapons). Period. … There is no other option.” Frías manos muertas . . .

MEXICO, D. F., (Apro).- After a year of risking their lives facing and expelling Los Caballeros Templarios out of 14 Tierra Caliente municipalities, Costa and the Meseta Purepecha (Purepecha Mesa), the self defense groups in Michoacan are now being threatened by Enrique Pena Nieto’s government, which is trying to force them to lay down the weapons with which they did the work that PRD, PAN and PRI Federal and state administrations failed to get done in 12 years.

The announcement enraged the autodefensas, who, through the words of Dr. Jose Manuel Mireles, refuse to disarm themselves. Article 10 of the Constitution, they argue, gives every Mexican the right to possess a weapon for self defense. The spokesman for the Tepalcatepec autodefensas asked for support from the towns to prevent (the government) from taking their weapons.

On Thursday, April 3, the Commissioner for security and economic development for Michoacan, Alfredo Castillo, announced in Morelia that the disarmament of the autodefensas will begin within the next few weeks, and he warned that, at the end of this process, whoever is found in possession of firearms will be arrested.

Hours later, on Thursday night on (April) 3, confrontations were reported between criminals on one side and autodefensas and Federal police who had supposedly cornered Servando Gomez Martinez, aka “La Tuta”, the leader of Los Caballeros Templarios.

The threats of disarming them angered the autodefensas. Upon learning of statements made by the commissioner, who is touring the municipality of Coahuayana, Mireles rejected the disarmament and asked the people for unity.

He reminded them that there have already been violent reactions to the threats of disarmament, like the one that took place in February in the Antunez area, where the population prevented soldiers from disarming them and there was a confrontation in which four persons died, two of them autodefensas.

He warned that he is not in favor of placing the safety of his city, Tepalcatepec, in the hands of the “single command” police or the national gendarmerie, because they do not know the geography, the people nor the criminals.

DANGEROUS DIFFERENCES

Mireles’ words clashed with the statements by the Federal commissioner. According to Salvador Maldonado Aranda, researcher with the College of Michoacan, these differences between the autodefensas and the government could bring about a new security crisis in the state.

A scholar of the Tierra Caliente region for more than a decade, Maldonado points out in an interview that the agreement signed at the start of the year by Castillo and the leaders of the autodefensas was meant to provide some certainty about the relationship between the parties. Also, disarmament was foreseen once demands for the arrest of the Templario leaders were satisfied.

He comments that, at least during these tense moments, there is in practice a distancing between the commissioner’s team and the autodefensas, who have divided into at least two goups: those linked to Mireles and those who support Castillo.

“I think this is the most tense situation, because it is not too clear whether the parties will come together or whether the the relationship will break up,” Maldonado indicates. He warns that you cannot disarm the autodefensas with the stroke of a pen, like the EPN government is trying to do, because their importance in combating crime and governing Michoacan has not been (properly) appreciated.

“Without this negotiation, I believe we’ll find ourselves in a serious dilemma: how are the relationships, the agreements going to be developed, what kinds of actors will form alliances to continue to improve a problem of violence and provide more assurance in governance. That’s the problem”.

RISKS OF MUTATION

Contrary to Castillo’s opinion that there is no longer any reason for the autodefensas to exist, (Maldonado) says that they can be an important intermediary, so long as new agreements are put in place to review the matter of infiltration and the work done to clean up areas previously controlled by (organized) crime.

He explains that the Federal Government should implement a long term strategy to provide the people with some certainty, and not expect that the autodefensas will come in, clean up the zone, and, a month later, the problem is again in place.

Worse still, if the Federal Government does not act carefully and wants to make the autodefensas disappear, there could be a phenomenon like in Peru or Colombia, where similar groups ended up being a problem for security and governability.

“That is a problem that was also experienced by other groups in Latin America, like the Civil Defense Committees in Peru, and, in some ways, the Self Defense Groups or paramilitary groups in Colombia. They had to reach a point where they had to negotiate to determine what they would do with them.”

However, he explains the the Michoacan autodefensas are different from the ones in Peru or Colombia, which were created by military (personnel) and subsidized by the government for counterinsurgency purposes.

If the differences with the Government persist, he adds, and they are made to disappear, there is a risk that in the intermediate term the autodefensas will take on another face and that other problems will grow, because then, the danger would come not only from criminal organizations, but also from the groups created to fight them and which are now considered to be illegal.

He argues that these groups are not going to give up their weapons even if they go underground; in a political situation hostile to them, they can form alliances with other kinds of groups.

The problem, he concludes, is that there have been no effective measures developed to provide predictability in the manner in which public security will be generated in Michoacan, except for deflating a political movement and eliminating organized crime.

He proposes a plan for citizen security, more so than public (security), whose strategic focus is on society and its long-term welfare.

comments

  1. avatar jirdesteva says:

    Was someone looking for an M16? I think the person in the picture has it.

    1. avatar Sixpack70 says:

      The other gun is an M1 carbine. Probably not from fast and furious.

    2. avatar jwm says:

      I hope it’s more reliable than my old m16.

      1. avatar Sixpack70 says:

        Every M16A2 I’ve held was perfectly reliable. I’ve also been lucky and not received bad magazines. I now only get issues M9s and they have also been just as reliable. The only problem with the first M16 I was issued was missing pieces and the pins were loose. The cleaning kit door was gone so every time I fired it made this odd sound as the buffer moved in the tube. Very annoying. The next few were much better. My M9s were rattling pieces of junk, but they worked.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          No a2. Had duct tape holding the forearm together and a bent nail replaced the pin holding the front sling swivel in place. Thing was a clapped out POS. Nobody, and I mean nobody had a kind word for them. We all begged borrowed, bought or stole a sidearm if at all humanly possible.

          Our shirt referred to us as a bunch of mexican bandits. There is truth to that old saying that a combat ready outfit is not inspection ready.

        2. avatar lolinski says:

          Did you take guns from enemies (so called “battlefield pick-ups”)? I know that If I were to have a bad gun, I would rather have the one that wasn’t falling apart.

        3. avatar jwm says:

          lolinski. If you’re an operator or an irregular using any weapon available is kosher. If you and your enemies use the same weapons, such as the AK in the former Yugoslavia(Your home territory if I remember correctly) it doesn’t matter, either.

          But an American line unit is equipped with the AR/m16. In my day the enemy were carrying AKs. Distinctly different looking and sounding weapons. Any time we heard an AK going off we just unloaded a world of shit on it. Carrying the enemies rifle was not a good practice.

          My first pistol was a Tokarev. I did not take it off a dead nva officer. I bought it off a guy that bought it off a guy. He needed money to stay in a poker game. I got a lot of stuff from the gamblers for cheap.

          I traded the Tok for a .38 cause the iron curtain was still up and ammo was a problem to find.

        4. avatar lolinski says:

          Makes sense, now I remember reading about some cases of “friendly fire” that started out like that. One guys M16 breaks, he grabs AK, he uses AK, gets shot at by comrades who tought he was NVA.

          I do remember a friend of mine telling me how he used a sheet metal tube (the kind that connects to the chimney from the wood stove) to make his gun sound different. He said it worked well since people who got shot at would not recognize the sound and would conclude that he had some really powerfull/good gun since the sound was so unusual. They would then skedaddle out of there in fear of getting shot/killed.

          There is a lot of psychological things in warfare when you think about it.

  2. avatar PPGMD says:

    A Mexican town resisting the government taking their guns. That is how the Texas War of Independence started.

  3. avatar Frank Masotti says:

    If the militia wins wins,,,

  4. avatar Sammy says:

    Coming to a town near you and me?

    1. avatar A samurai says:

      There, but for the grace of God, go we.

    2. avatar William Burke says:

      The signpost says, “In all Probability”.

    3. avatar Stuki says:

      You’ve got more fate in your neighbors, than I have in mine…. Hope you’re right!

  5. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    I love the mentality of governments. Hey thanks for arming and tossing the bad guys out. Now put down your weapons so and become defenseless again so we can start the process again. Ukraine’s acting president told their militias to disarm. I don’t think they have. Also, do you really want the people disarmed if Russia is breathing down your neck? Same thing in Mexico. Nothing has changed except a corrupt government wants the people to lay Dow their arms and go back to being good peasants.

    1. avatar Backyardsniper says:

      Ukrain’s president asked the pro-russian milita’s that are storming public buildings and increasing tensions to disarm, not citizens loyal to the government.

      1. avatar Cliff H says:

        “…not those citizens loyal to the current Ukraine government which installed itself after the elected government was thrown out of Kiev…”

        Fixed it for you.

        Does anyone really feel that the ethnic Russian population in the east of Ukraine does not have the same right to throw out a government they do not want or trust that pro-west/Europe Ukrainians used to justify throwing out the popularly elected pro-Russian government?

        1. avatar ropingdown says:

          I think they had the right to throw him out when he changed from his election promise, to follow through with the EU agreement, and switched to the pro-Russia camp. The legislature voted for the change. It reminded me of when I voted for Senator Arlen Specter again and then shortly after the election he declared himself a Democrat (“To save a job, my job!”).

        2. avatar Rich Grise says:

          Or, let them throw out both of the governments and live in peace for a change!

        3. avatar Pat says:

          “Ukrain’s president asked the Russian Spetsnaz that are storming public buildings and increasing tensions to disarm”

          Fixed it for you

      2. avatar Sammy says:

        Ukraine’s president “asked” the pro-Russian militias that are storming public buildings and increasing tensions to disarm, not citizens loyal to the government.

        How’s that going?

  6. avatar Jim R says:

    God help these people. This is not going to end well.

    1. avatar Paul53, says:

      Probably will end well. In Mexico, when all else fails, bribe someone. It’s called La mordida, translated meaning a bite of the action.

      1. avatar Stuki says:

        That only works to point. Sooner or later even well indoctrinated public school fodder is bound to find out that the vast majority of them will forever be locked out of the bribing. Barre tried throwing money around, along with fear, as well. And it held for awhile. But eventually, enough people finally woke up to the fact that the money had to come from somewhere, and they were destined to forever remain the source.

  7. avatar SouthernPatriot says:

    Though Mexican militias are not protected under a Bill of Rights and a constitution which has lasted more than two centuries, I certainly sympathize with the armed populace and militias of Mexico. They have suffered greatly under the heavy thumb of the corrupt policia and drug lords. I was in southern Mexico a decade ago and things there were so bad that no one in the town could own guns or any weapon and if they had machetes they had to put them into a locked box each day after work. The lives of everyone in the town was dictated by the drug lords.

    We can all sympathize with the Mexican patriots and good citizens. However, these times have come to the U.S. in many areas, and after a disaster, such as Katrina, and other calamities, guns are oftentimes seized by law enforcement.

    1. avatar David Cole-Brooks says:

      Well, the Mexican Constitution has the “Garantías Individuales”, which is similar to the Bill of Rights since 1917. And they have the “Articulo 10 Constitucional”, which is similar to the 2nd Amendment. The “Articulo 10” gave Mexicans the right to own and carry firearms, but after 1971, the “Articulo 10” was changed to owning guns only and severely restricting the right to carry. Today, Mexicans can have “registred” pistols in calibers no bigger than .380 and revolvers no bigger than .38 special, long weapons are intended for hunters, and it is very difficult to legally own semi-auto rifles in calibers similar to military weapons (5.56-.223 and 7.62) like a Ruger Mini 14, but you have no problem getting a Benelli Argo in 3006 because it is not considered a military cartridge.

  8. avatar JAS says:

    These governments are so “old school”. Let good people (the majority) defend themselves and a lot of the crime will disappear. But no, they want everyone disarmed. Does that ring any bells, as in alarm bells?

    1. avatar Stuki says:

      Preventing “The bad people from disappearing”, is simple self preservation for governments…

  9. avatar USMCVeteran says:

    Molon labe!

    1. avatar BDub says:

      Indeed.

    2. avatar Jonathan -- Houston says:

      Venir y llevarlos!

  10. avatar Tommycat says:

    They have to be careful. Keep in mind that the original reason the Bloods and Crips started was because the cops wouldn’t go into the poor black neighborhoods. This caused the gangs to gain strength and numbers because they were helping the neighborhood. Of course we know how it has escalated because of the turf wars, but the original intent was to defend the people the police would not. It would help if they would get the recognition for their efforts rather than being told, “Okay, now that you did the hard work, using your firearms, Give us all your firearms, because you can trust us not to be corrupt, again…”

    1. avatar Vhyrus says:

      Do you have any links to back up that assertion? I am not finding that information anywhere.

    2. avatar Jonathan -- Houston says:

      My understanding of Southern California gangs (not from personal experience), is that the blacks there first formed gangs in the 1920s-30s, but they weren’t particularly violent, criminal, or territorial. Not that they were purely pleasant social groups. Supposedly they did intimidate people and maybe shake some of them down, but that they were fairly bland by today’s standards; committing what we’d consider petty crimes today.

      The gangs grew in size and aspirations throughout the next few decades and became more territorial; but the big gang wars we might think of now weren’t really a way of life. Supposedly, it really was more like one-off turf fights, rumbles in the parlance of the time, where both sides would square off someplace. Clubs, knives, chains, and various deadly weapons were typical, but not so much firearms, though serious injury and deaths were not unheard of.

      The “Baby Avenues” gang was the first of what you’d call the modern gangs there. From there, their name morphed into “Cribs” and then into “Crips.” Then came numerous copycat gangs with variations on the Crips name, but all independent and in conflict, and all just in on the petty crime business. They all fought amongst themselves and eventually in the 1970’s the Bloods were formed. All of these gangs have only ever been interested in terrorizing their own neighborhoods and other gangs. There was never any noble origin when they were just trying to protect people, like the “Guardian Angels” group in New York.

      1. avatar Vhyrus says:

        I have heard two scenarios about the formation of the large street gangs. The first is that they were a byproduct of the vietnam war. Young poor kids came back with military training and some pretty horrific PTSD, had zero post war opportunities, and decided that running drugs would be a perfect hobby. The other claims that their roots are actually closer to post WW2, when blacks were barred from traditional clubs such as boy scouts and decided to form their own informal street clubs. Couple this with the racial segregation of the 50’s and turmoil of the 60’s and you have a perfect storm for disenfranchised, newly empowered urban youth. I have a feeling both of these are correct to a degree.

    3. avatar Rich Grise says:

      All of the “gangs” were a response to the insane War on Drugs, exactly the way the speakeasies and the bootleggers and the Al Capones were caused by Prohibition.

      End the war and the violence will end. The concept of “turf war” becomes meaningless when a customer can go to any of a dozen different vendors within a two-block radius.

      In other words, the Free Market will also solve the “drug problem.”

    4. avatar Stuki says:

      And the reason the Bloods and Crips have been able to terrorize their neighborhoods for so long, is that the cops are standing right behind them, backing them up; should ever a South Central “Autodefensa,” consisting of homeowners and business owners there, decide to simply rid their neighborhood of them. In that situation, as always and everywhere, it’s the government who is the problem. Not the strawmen they push in front of them to justify their own existence and grift.

  11. avatar ropingdown says:

    The Mexican government is just pathetically corrupt at the national, state, and municipal level. Who could blame the Autodefensas for being angry? They located el Chayo, but the federales clained all the credit when they brought him in.

    The sad thing for me is not just the corruption, but the absolute fact that U.S. investors, and therefore our government, has played along with and profited from the corruption, because we can buy whatever results we need locally in Mexico. But who is it that makes it impossible politically for the U.S. government to take the other side, that of the Autodefensas and municipalities? The Latino voters in the U.S. They will not tolerate “the heavy hand of the Yankees” inserting itself militarily in Mexican affairs.

    It makes me laugh: Every influential and corrupt powerful Mexican has big U.S. law firms on retainer for everything from tax advice (cough…managing their offshore investments…cough) to criminal-law advice, to helping them ‘move’ money into legitimate U.S. investments, (pronounced ‘real estate.’) The cynicism is so deep it might strike oil.

    1. avatar Stuki says:

      And exactly why would our oppressors “take the other side” against their colleagues across the border? They’re all in the same boat, after all. Living off corruption, graft and theft; while doing their darnedest to prevent their underlings fro obtaining the means to challenge them. Latinos in the US, have somewhere between zero and less than that, to do with it.

  12. avatar Tyler says:

    Anyone know how to say “From my cold dead hand” in Spanish?

    1. avatar David Cole-Brooks says:

      “De mi fría y muerta mano”

  13. avatar Hannibal says:

    The government can deal with the criminals; the game is well-established and there’s plenty of money flowing between the two. But giving power to regular people? Can’t have that.

    1. avatar ropingdown says:

      Yep. A clearer abject history of government self-interest in gun confiscation could not be had (but the gangs who pay us? That’s different!). Article 10 of the 1927 constitution, Keep and Bear Arms, was altered in 1971. The Wiki summary of the 1. Reason the government pushed for change versus 2. The reason the government then gave for why the people no longer need guns is just the condensed history of gun control:

      “By the 1960s, fear of the growing anti-government sentiment and the growing number of citizens arming themselves, prompted the government to modify Article 10 of the Constitution and to enact the Federal Law of Firearms and Explosives. And so begun a systematic disarmament of the population by limiting gun ownership to small-caliber handguns, heavily restricting the right to carry outside the home, and ending a cultural attachment to firearms by shutting down gun stores, outlawing the private sale of firearms, closing down public shooting facilities, and putting in control of the federal government all firearm-related matters.

      This swift change resulting in sweeping powers over gun control were the result of the strong presidentialism that has traditionally marked Mexican politics, giving the sitting president control and cooperation of Congress to change present laws or enact new laws. The government defended the constitutional reform and new federal law by expressing that there was a time where the government could not guarantee the security of its subjects and therefore citizens were allowed to arm themselves to look after their own safety but given that the government was now able to deliver justice, it was time that the use of force be reserved to the government in order to preserve due process and the rule of law.”

      Just wow. They can guarantee that ‘justice’ right up until the cartels take over and beheadings become more common in Mexico than in Syria or Iraq…..

    2. avatar Stuki says:

      Of course not. What else is new?

  14. avatar Lfshtr says:

    God bless oury Consitution and the 2nd. Amendment! Our forefathers knew about governments and the way they think. Piss on the guy in Nevada, do a little gun running, they, the goverment say we don’t have to protect our country (Embassy in Benghazi) and screw our guys their. Oh and let’s turn the IRS onto those righties and control the voting machine. We have nothing but crooks in our house. Hopefully these peon’s in Mexico can defend themselves. Here in our country, we have crooks stepping on our rights nada assault on our Consitution.u

  15. avatar Lfshtr says:

    Oops, got carried away, I forgot about those young Turks again!

  16. avatar Sammy says:

    I think this is all part of the gun confiscation program. Push normally peaceful people to violence because they feel threaten by government thugs and instant martial law.

    1. avatar Stuki says:

      As long as the US stays out of it, it is possible that the Mexicans have finally had enough, and manage to get some meaningful change out of this one.

      Given that military forces are already involved, “martial law” is pretty much de facto in effect anyway, b US standards. It’s just that the Mexicans are better armed than we are, relative to their oppressors, (despite hot air blowing by the NRA and others of that ilk.) So, “martial law” is not quite the threat down there, than it would be here.

      The biggest obstacle the Mexicans seem to face, is that there is nothing much they have to rally around in their opposition. The Church down there has been in decline for a century or more, with nothing taking it’s place. Way down south there are still remnants of the revolution going, but the majority of Mexicans seem to have fallen for the partyline that those guys are “terrorists”, or “anarchists” (as if that’s a bad thing), or “crazy”, or “enemies of the state” (again, is that supposed to be bad?)

  17. avatar The Last Marine out says:

    And they all say you can trust the government. If that was true ! why do governments always ask for the guns first ? and then come back and give you slavery. that is history! That is why we will NEVER EVER GIVE UP our guns. Give me LIBERTY or death. P. Henry………..

  18. avatar Paul53, says:

    Take notes, Connecticut!

  19. avatar NotoriousAPP says:

    Keep it up my Mexican patriot friends. I hope you come out on top of this. Even in the United states were tired of hearing about you being bullied by government and narcos….one in the same.

  20. avatar Ralph says:

    The “autodefensas” cannot be trusted to support the government’s favored narcoterrorists of the moment, so they must be disarmed. Got it.

  21. avatar Anonymous coward says:

    Wow….. That area is extremely rich in resources, agriculture, and has probably one of the larger ports in Mexico. Perhaps they should create their own country.

    The lack of news coverage in the US is extremely suspicious to me, while not definite proof; It does show to me our gov’t is in collusion with the Mexican gov’t. They follow our orders, we help them. They don’t the US devalutates their currency, taxes trade, lets manufacturing move to China, ect, ect….. On a rant, however, this is super suspicious.

    Thank you TTAG for covering this issue which is very important to me and my wife. The mainstream media is nothing more than a consent generating tool. 🙁 Please keep covering all updates, pretty please?

    1. avatar jirdesteva says:

      The lame stream media’s civilian disarmament agenda is not served by covering armed civilians protecting themselves from a corrupt government and their cartel supporters. Nothing suspicious here.

    2. avatar CLarson says:

      +1, Thanks, Robert, for making this coverage a priority. It is crazy that Ukraine gets more news than our southern neighbor.

  22. avatar Don Quixote says:

    Tyler, that translation is, “de mis manos muertas y frias”

  23. avatar Pahtun6 says:

    Hey can we go back to posting articles about guns? There’s a lot more going on down in Mexico that the media isn’t reporting. I hate to say this but these militias aren’t nessescarily 100% the good guys.

    1. avatar ropingdown says:

      Huh? What does 100% have to do with it? The first autodefensa in Michoacan was formed after the residents of the town had had enough. What’s enough? They were extorted for a larger percentage of their agricultural produce. Their daughters and wives were randomly kidnapped, abused sexually for a week or two, then freed. Any strong objections to their extortion resulted in the murder of the objector.

      And you think 100% purity is worth talking about?

    2. avatar Stuki says:

      But anyone caught in the act of armed resistance to government edicts, are at that moment fighting 100% the good fight. Whatever they may otherwise do with their lives, for now, they deserve our support.

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