500 guards gathered in Mexico Town, pledging to help the police
New Yoriko The extortion of avocado growers in western Mexico has become so bad that 500 members of the “self-defense” group known as United Towns, or Pueblos Unidos, gathered on Saturday and pledged to help the police.
Guards gathered for a rally in the town of Nuevo Juricu in the western state of Michoacan, armed with AR-15 and other rifles, as well as an assortment of shotguns.
They said drug cartels such as Viagra and the Jalisco Cartel are taxing avocado growers with “war taxes” of about $1,000 per acre ($2,500 per hectare).
Tired of extortion and kidnapping demands, farmers and farmers formed the group in 2020, and it now claims to have nearly 3,000 members.
“Many of us have fallen victim to this situation, kidnappings and extortion,” said one masked community leader, who asked that his name not be used for fear of gang reprisals.
For now, the Rangers appear willing to respond to a pledge by Governor Alfredo Ramirez Pedulla to disarm the state’s various “self-defense” groups.
“We reached agreements with the mayor to increase the number of police” who patrol the area, the guard leader said. “For now, we are putting our weapons away, but we will be on alert to get out and support the police at any moment.”
Pueblos Unidos have organized armed rallies in several towns in Michoacan over the past year, but have always said they would prefer to formally form security forces to do the work of driving out criminal gangs.
Mexican law prohibits most civilians from owning nearly all firearms, except for hunting rifles or hunting rifles of extremely low caliber.
But Michoacan has a history of “self-defense” armed civilian militia movements from 2013 and 2014. At the time, the Rangers were able to hunt down the dominant Templar cartel, but rival cartels such as the Viagra and Jalisco cartel did. Kidnappings, killings and shootings drove thousands to flee their homes.
The Mexican army sent troops into the state, but only to serve as a buffer between the warring cartels, trying to ensure that no other cartel’s territory was invaded.
But the soldiers do little or nothing about the illegal gang activities taking place only hundreds of meters from their checkpoints.
This has prompted Michoacan residents to take up arms again, in the face of rampant extortion by Viagra, Jalisco, and other gangs.
This time around, the self-defense movement operates mostly in avocado-growing areas that were not the epicenter of the 2013 civil uprising.
As avocados became a more widespread and profitable crop, cartels and drug cartels resorted to extorting protection payments from farmers.
While previous “self-defense” groups have been infiltrated or taken over by drug cartels, Pueblos Unidos leaders have said they are not connected to any of the warring gangs and are willing to lay down their weapons.
“We never took any city,” said one of the leaders of the masked vigilante group. “We’re not part of a cartel or anything like that.”
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