José Manuel Mireles Michoacán self-defense group leader José Manuel Mireles, center.

Self-defense group leader arrested, followers vow to retaliate

Michoacán self-defense group leader José Manuel Mireles was arrested yesterday; today his followers are threatening to blockade the port of Lázaro Cárdenas if he is not released.

Mireles was arrested with 82 others for allegedly being in possession of unauthorized weapons. Many of his followers were mobilizing this morning, and they too were armed.

The self-defense groups formed as a means of defending communities against drug cartels. The federal government stepped in and set up a new rural police force, inviting the self-defense groups to join or disarm. Mireles has refused to ally himself with the new force.

He and other defense groups signed an agreement to disband the groups and create a system of registration for their arms. But Mireles said on Thursday that from is point of view the federal government has not lived up to its side of the agreement by eradicating organized crime in the state.

The state’s governor resigned last week for health reasons. His replacement has significant challenges to address; that communities feel the need to arm themselves in defense against the Knights Templar and other cartels is one of them.

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