It was “hell” last week in Michoacán and the former state security commissioner is to blame, ex-self-defense leader José Manuel Mireles charged on Sunday.
One of the founders of the state’s paramilitary self-defense groups, Mireles was speaking during the launch of his book Todos Somos Autodefensas (We are all self-defense members) in Mexico City.
“In Michoacán, it was hell all this week, there were more than 100 murder victims . . . mainly in Tierra Caliente. Who armed the organized crime that is now murdering civilians in Michoacán? Alfredo Castillo Cervantes, sent by [President] Enrique Peña Nieto.”
Castillo served in the specially created federal-level role for just over a year from January 2014 to January 2015. Critics say he did little to improve the security situation in the state.
Castillo was in charge of security in Michoacán when Mireles was arrested and imprisoned in June 2014 on charges of crimes against public health and possession of restricted weapons.
The founder of the Tepalcatepec self-defense group remained in prison for almost three years until his release in May last year.
Mireles, 59, charged that during his time in the state, Castillo distributed 8,000 weapons to criminal organizations.
He also made it clear that he believes that the state would be better off with community-based security forces rather than official government-sanctioned ones.
“Look at the news this week in Michoacán. They forbid us to continue doing what is their job and now Michoacán is worse, there are more homicides, more dismemberments, more executions,” he said, adding that Castillo left behind police forces infiltrated by criminals and corrupt officers.
In contrast, municipalities that have legitimate self-defense groups are the state’s safest, Mireles said, citing Aquila, Coahuayana, Chinicuila, Tepalcatepec and Tancítaro as examples.
Meanwhile, Tecomán in the neighboring state of Colima has seen a spike in violence, Mireles said.
A member of the audience quickly chimed in to offer an explanation.
“Ah, but there they have the army, the navy, the PGR [the federal Attorney General’s office], state police, ministerial police, even the firefighters have guns. See the big difference,” the enthusiastic Mireles supporter said.
Moving on to politics, Mireles said he will support the presidential candidate that offers the change that the country needs but did not mention any of the six candidates by name.
“. . . We’re also going to demand the public security that the nation so sorely needs, an adjustment to the provision of justice [and] the reestablishment of the rule of law,” he explained.
“We set the example that we can cleanse the nation, we showed the way . . . we did it, people of Mexico who do not belong to any political party,” Mireles said.
The ex-leader also said that the National Self-Defense Front, a collective made up of groups from 20 states, is still active but stressed that its aim isn’t to engage in confrontations.
“Yes, it does exist . . . [but] we’re not lovers of violence, we don’t want a war,” he said.
Michoacán recorded 103 intentional homicides in January and high levels of violent crime continued in February.
According to state security authorities, a turf war between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Nueva Familia Michoacana is largely responsible for the violence.