Mexican Militias Take War to Drug Dealers
In Old Mexico, there has been a very long and bloody war on drugs. This campaign has spilled over the US border in recent years and the US has replied by sending arms and assistance to the Mexican government. Well the fact is that most of this effort is spent in Mexico City and along the US border, with little left for other parts of the country. The citizens of several of these forgotten states have taken matters into their own hands.
(The Mexican Army is well armed and well trained, but is being mainly used along the US border to fight the huge cartels in places like Juarez, and Del Rio.)
Certain parts of the Republic have always had a tenuous relationship with the central government in Mexico City. To say that Michoacan is one of them is an understatement. With the exception of the Yucatan and Chihuahua, Michoacan has always been the most anti-Federal part of the country. The state and several of its residents played a major role in the Mexican War of Independence. Then twice in the 20th Century, during the Mexican Revolution (1911-1918) and the anti-Catholic Cristero War (1926-29), the state was a battleground.
(These old Mauser rifles, seen her in the hands of Michocan rebels during the Cristeros wars, are being taken out of hiding and used once more.)
The thing is, Michoacan, on Mexico's Pacific Coast and far from the US border, has a beautiful port at Lzaro Crdenas. While trade of all sorts should make the state rich, its trade in illegal drugs from South America, just to the south, that has the narco-trafficers fighting for control. This had led to a turf battle between numerous large drug gangs for control of the region. Currently, the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templars), formed in 2011 from remnants of the defunct La Familia Michoacana drug cartel, is the big hitter in the state. But they are being pushed out by the local...
Locals remembered their heritage and, thinking of their families, began to band together. Armed with machetes, kitchen knives, axes, Mauser rifles that have been hidden under floorboards since Villa's time, and old shotguns, they started to patrol their neighborhoods. These neighborhood watches grew to cover whole parts of town, then whole towns. As the Knights Templar protested, the citizens fought back and sent them packing. Soon the vigilantes arsenal was bolstered by captured and dropped AK47s, MAC-10s, and other guns acquired from the drug dealers foot soldiers. Just like any insurgency, they used knifes to get guns.
One Washington Post article portrays them in a very good light saying, "They include a 63-year-old pot-bellied farmer mindful that he can run only 30 yards; a skinny 23-year-old raised in Oregon who said he had never used a gun before; and a man who wears a metal bowl stuffed with newspaper as a helmet. A 47-year-old bureaucrat, who is sure that she will be killed if the gang retakes her town, said of her decision to join the cause: "I may live one year or 15, but I will live free."
(This NY Daily News photo of a Michocan citizen soldier shows a captured AKM with jungle rigged magazines. Without getting any support from the government, the local militia is recycling the narco's weapons.)
This war between the locals and the drug cartels has gotten bad in the past few months. Recently, the cartels have taken to firebombing electrical substations, punishing the population for harboring and supporting the militias. The government even stepped in, not to fight the drug traffickers but to disarm the militia.
(The Federales and the Army have come into the state in recent months, to keep the militias from running amok)
Not content to have their government ride shotgun over them, the militia reacted to a raid from the Mexican Army with their own raid, capturing 47 of the government's troops. This led to a truce of sorts between Mexico City and the militia in Michoacan. They agree to disagree and the two forces do their best to fight the Knights Templars.
This had led to the militia groups wearing distinctive uniforms and moving into what Mao would call the Third Stage of Insurgency, Conventional war: "Once the enemy is weak enough, and the insurgent has enough control to fight large-scale battles, the insurgent must take control of the ground. "
The Word is Spreading
Mexican farmers and citizens in Guerro, hiding their faces with masks and hats, turning over 11 narco traffickers they have captured to the Federal Police. In that town, the locals have formed an 800-member force and been granted limited law enforcement powers by the governor of the state.
The home-spun militia groups in Michocan are not alone, in an article at Wired.com earlier this year, they estimate that nearly half of Mexico's 31 states have some sort of organized civilian militia to fight the drug gangs. Footage shows motely assemblages of men in civilian clothes, with masks, ancient bolt-action rifles that may not have any ammunition made for them in the past fifty years, and single-shot hinge-break shotguns performing patrols.
While very Mad Max, it is a sign that civilization does not have to stand by and go quietly into the night.