War Between Narcos and Vigilante Groups Heats up in Mexico

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The security situation in Mexico's troubled state of Michoacán took a turn for the worse over the weekend after criminals, who are most likely linked to the Knights Templar drug cartel, staged a spate of attacks on civilian targets.

On Saturday gunmen in the town of Apatzingan attacked a group of unarmed members of vigilante groups who were in town to meet with locals interested in forming self-defense organizations of their own.

Then, in the early hours of Sunday morning, criminals with assault weapons threw petrol bombs at a dozen power facilities owned by Mexico's Federal Electricity Commission. No casualties were reported during these attacks, but later in the day five people died in clashes between self-defense groups and presumed drug traffickers near the town of Aguililla.


Mexican media have mostly attributed the violence to the Knights Templar drug cartel, the strongest criminal group in Michoacán, but Mexico's interior ministry has refused to name a culprit. The Ministry said on Sunday that it is still investigating the attacks.

Most of this weekend's incidents occurred in Michoacán's Tierra Caliente region, a warm valley whose economy is driven by cattle ranching and lemon farms.

The Knights Templar, are known for trading in methamphetamines, but also for trying to levy taxes on all sorts of businesses from corner shops to big cattle estates.

This situation, combined with the government's incapacity to stop these crimes, has prompted dozens of towns in the region to form armed vigilante groups that are trying to kick the Knights Templar out of the region.


Over the past six months, vigilantes and cartel members have clashed in several town across the region. Apatzingan, the town were gunmen attacked a meeting of local vigilante groups on Saturday, is considered a stronghold of the Knights Templar cartel.

Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.

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