Hundreds of Mexican vigilantes held memorial mass in Apatzingan, Michoacán Monday, remembering those who died in the struggle to expel the Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios) drug cartel and celebrating the one year anniversary of the creation of the autodefensas (self-defense) movement. The groups, which have no legal authority, have been credited with ridding mountain towns of the cartel’s influence after national security forces failed to do so.
The self-defense groups first emerged in Michoacán a year ago to combat the violent drug cartels, and just this month they reclaimed control of the city of Apatzingan with the aid of the military and local police. The groups’ tactics have since spread to neighboring Guerrero, where villagers have created the Council of Upper Towns to counter the La Familia cartel on Sunday.
After the capture of Knights Templar kingpin Dionisio Loya Plancarte late last month, the federal government announced that it would collaborate with the vigilantes and absorb qualifying members into the military controlled Rural Defense Corps. The move came after the government’s unsuccessful attempt to disarm the autonomous groups in the rural western region.