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Michoacán's Fuerza Rural: where the self-defense groups went. Michoacán's Fuerza Rural: where the self-defense groups went.

‘Cartels eliminated,’ says security chief

Caballeros, Familia Michoacana no longer operating in Michoacán, says Bernal

The drug cartels have been eradicated from Michoacán, according to Public Security (SSP) Secretary José Antonio Bernal, who now wants the state’s vigilante self-defense groups — known as autodefensas — to put down their arms and return to civilian life.

The most powerful cartels operating in Michoacán over the last decade have been the Caballeros Templarios, Los Zetas and the Familia Michoacana. In response to inaction by the state to address the lack of security and the increasing power of those gangs, civilians took up arms and confronted the cartels in a movement that swept the state.

Since 2014 the vigilantes who chose to register their guns and don official uniforms have been legally patrolling as part of a state-sponsored rural police force, the Fuerza Rural. Those who refused to register and join forces with state defenses are still referred to as autodefensas.

According to Bernal, 800 of the estimated 1,600 paramilitaries operating in Michoacán have returned to civilian life. As for the rest, there may be an option for those operating in Apatzingán, Zamora, Lázaro Cárdenas and other regions of the state to join with official security forces.

When questioned, Bernal accepted that there was still a degree of crime within the Fuerza Rural, which needed to be identified and eradicated.

Bernal, who took charge of Michoacán’s public security just over three months ago, insists that neither the Caballeros Templarios nor the Familia Michoacana are currently operating in the state.

“We have common crimes, such as residential robberies, but not high-impact crimes.” Bernal says, those, too, will decline as the police forces become more organized.

As for the self-defense groups, Bernal said “The sacrifice of brave men and women who did not join criminal groups is appreciated; but at this time the authorities have to take charge.

“I have to see that the rule of law prevails. Now it is the government that is responsible for providing security.”

Sources: El Universal (sp)

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