The Mexican government announced a temporary agreement on Monday that will incorporate vigilante groups in the state of Michoacán into national law enforcement.
Over the past year, civilian groups have taken arms to combat the violent Knights Templar drug cartel (Caballeros Templarios) based out of Apatzingan, Michoacán. The government moved to integrate the local groups into the Rural Defense Corps, a preexisting organization that is controlled by the military, after failing to disarm vigilantes in the region earlier this month.
The plan comes after the leader of the Knights Templar, Dionisio Loya Plancarte, was captured on Monday. Some see the move to combine state forces with the vigilantes as a major development in the fight against drug cartel related violence. “This is the start point of the new dynamic in which we are going to work together, the state and federal governments, with civil society,” said Alfredo Castillo, the federal government envoy to Michoacán.
However, others are critical of the measure and cite similarities between the current plan and peasant armies such as the Peasant Self Defense Patrols in Guatemala during the country’s civil war. “It would be better not to go down that road, and instead strengthen law enforcement and the justice and public safety systems,” human rights activist, Claudia Samayoa said.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is currently in Cuba for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit, will require all candidates for the Rural Defense Corps to pass a series of physical and performance exams called “pruebas de confianza” before they are formally integrated.