Breitbart Texas reported this weekend that the Mexican government gave uniforms and assault rifles to hundreds of vigilantes in the country, creating the Rural Police Force. Authorities made the decision in response to the increasingly menacing drug cartels in the country. Recent reports state that vigilantes who did not join the Rural Police Force are resisting the Mexican government’s effort to demobilize them.
The Washington Post reported that over the weekend, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto began to rein in and demobilize vigilantes who did not join the newly-formed Rural Police Force.
Over 450 new force members reportedly lined up at a cattle ranch in Tepalcatepec, a rural town in Michoacan, Mexico, on May 10 to receive equipment from government officials. While this was happening, however, a significant number of vigilantes allegedly refused to lay down their weapons
While the Mexican officials previously turned a blind eye to citizen-formed defense groups, from now on civilians carrying weapons illegally will apparently be arrested on the spot.
An estimated 20,000 vigilantes are said to have a significant presence in more than 30 Mexican towns. These citizen-formed defense groups have been credited for successfully forcing many gang members out of communities. Simultaneously, the Mexican government–which some alleged has been infiltrated by cartels– has had an increasingly difficult time protecting citizens.
Many citizen militia members have apparently boycotted the Rural Police Force, claiming that “their former comrades are morphing into new, government-sanctioned criminal groups,” according to the Washington Post. This may suggest that significant clashes between the Mexican government and vigilantes are forthcoming.
Vigilante Eriberto Sanchez reportedly said, “Everyone is afraid that the government will make a deal and the cartel will come back. We don’t have an honest government.”
“We don’t like this situation, but we can’t lay down our arms,” gun owner Porfirio Avalos added.
The government’s attempt to demobilize vigilantes, and arrest illegally armed citizens, has lead to a mass number of residents attempting to register their weapons. The Washington Post reported that over 6,000 weapons were registered just over the weekend. Those suspicious of the government, however, apparently fear that officials will use the registration database to confiscate weapons.
Vigilante leader Alfredo Viveros asked, “What assurances do we have that you won’t take our guns away? “
Still, there are significant accusations of corruption within the vigilante movement including reports of cartel infiltration. Observers also point out that there is nothing preventing cartel members from posing as vigilantes. The Telegraph reported that 155 suspects were discovered dressed as vigilantes.
Breitbart Texas Contributing Editor Sylvia Longmire said of the decision to arm some citizens in the creation of the new police force, “This is a really bad idea because there’s already evidence that vigilante members are joining up with drug cartels. I’m not sure whether this is an acknowledgement that the government can’t control the Knights Templar on their own, or if they’re so blind to the potential for this to go awry that they still think arming the militias is a good idea. Either way, no good can come of this plan.”
In 2013, vigilante groups became prominent when they fought against the violent Knights Templars; they did so because Mexican authorities failed to protect citizens. More recently, deadly gun battles between cartel members and government forces have been plaguing the Mexican state of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, near the Texas border.
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate.