Amid the threat of another cartel attack, residents of Tepalcatepec, Michoacán, have once again taken up arms to protect their town and families.
The sun is not yet up when men both young and old leave their homes to begin the patrols they say are necessary in the absence of support from federal and state authorities to combat the threat posed by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).
“We’re not criminals, we’re farmers, storekeepers, fathers, brothers and sons who . . . are doing the security work that is the responsibility of the government,” a heavily-armed jornalero, or day laborer, told the newspaper El Universal.
Five days ago, Tepalcatepec came under attack by suspected CJNG hitmen apparently intent on taking control of the western Michoacán municipality located on the border with Jalisco.
Mayor Felipe Martínez Pérez said in an interview that both residents and local authorities have asked the Michoacán and federal governments to send police and the armed forces to Tepalcatepec to reinforce security and prevent another incursion by the cartel. But he claims that the requests have fallen on deaf ears.
In that context, residents say they decided to dust off their weapons and return to their self-defense duties for the first time in five years.
A report published today by the newspaper El Universal said the vigilantes indicated that they would rather die on their feet than be forced to kneel down and watch their loved ones being killed.
The words are a riff on the quote “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees,” which is attributed to Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata.
Armed with high-caliber weapons such as AK-47s and AR-15s, the men walk several kilometers early in the morning to a hill on the border with Jalisco, from where the CJNG hitmen reportedly crossed into Michoacán.
Perched on the hill and using an earthen barricade, bushes and trees for cover, the men keep a careful eye on the land below for any sign that cartel members are on the move towards Tepalcatepec.
They cross themselves frequently, mindful of the danger that they and their family members face.
“This isn’t President [López] Obrador’s land or that of Governor Silvano [Aureoles],” one vigilante said, implying that if citizens don’t take up the fight to the CJNG, no one will.
Source: El Universal (sp)