Michoacán: army clashes with 'community police'
On the night of Jan. 13, one day after "community police" gunmen seized several pueblos that had been controlled by the Knights Templar narco-gang in Mexico's west-central state of Michoacán, federal army troops were sent in to take back the villages from the vigilante force. "Community police" leaders say up to 12 of their men have been killed in clashes with the army. The bloodiest incident is reported from Antúnez pueblo, Parácuaro municipality—where a 17-year-old youth is said to be among seven dead. Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) says it has confirmed the deaths of four at Antúnez, including a minor.
There are conflicting reports on whether the vigilantes have agreed to retrat, or intend to continue resisting. The leader of the United Council of Michoacán Community Self-Defence Groups, José Manuel Mireles, was initially reported to have issued a video message from a Mexico City hosipital calling on his followers to "heed the call from the interior minister" and "return to their daily business." But in a subsequent video released to the press, Mireles denied he had ordered his followers to retreat, saying he could only issue such a call after meeting of the Council's other leaders.
Mireles was hospitalized in Mexico City—under heavy police guard—after being injured when a small private plane he was travelling in crashed over Jalisco last week. But his second media statement was issued from an unknown location. It is unclear how his supporters were able to secure his release from the closely guarded hospital, or how long he will remain in hiding.
Other vigilante leaders insisted they would not lay down arms—including Estanislao Beltran, who heads the self-defense force in the town of Tepalcatepec, a key leader of this week's ambitious actions. (BBC News, Proceso, Terra Mexico, Latin Times, Excelsior, Jan. 14; NPR, Jan. 13; El Economista, Jan. 9)