Self-defense forces in Michoacan, Mexico

A series of "narcomantas" likely linked to the Knights Templar cartel have appeared in Michoacan threatening to form a guerrilla army to combat self-defense militias, as the west Mexico state's long running conflict takes a new twist.

The "narcomantas" -- banners hung by drug cartels looking to communicate with the population, their rivals, or the state -- were hung around three municipalities in Michoacan State. The banners complain the government is allowing armed groups to exist in the region and pledge to form a guerrilla force "to protect our territory, our life and our family" if those groups are not dissolved, reported Proceso.

The messages were unsigned, although are more than likely linked to the Knights Templar -- the dominant criminal organization in the region, which has for months been locked into a violent struggle with the self-defense militias that have risen up against them.

The banners appeared around the same time the Knights Templar is attempting to stamp its authority on Michoacan by cutting off supplies of gasoline and food to some of the communities most closely associated with the vigilante movement, including Buenavista Tomatlan, Tepalcatepec and Coalcoman. 

InSight Crime Analysis

This latest development in the ongoing conflict in Michoacan underscores the Knights Templar's insistence on depicting itself as not a drug cartel but as a social movement that is forced into illegal activities

As reflected in the banners, the Knights Templar claim to protect the people of the region and defend them against incursions from groups which threaten their interests. Most recently this has included the self-defense groups, which the Knights have accused of operating as a front for their main rivals in the region, the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG).

The idea of the Knights forming guerrilla cells fits in with the idea of a "narco-insurgency," in which the line between the political and the criminal becomes increasingly blurred as criminal organizations attempt to impose their will through tactics more commonly associated with rebel movements. If any group were to fulfill the criteria of a "narco-insurgency," it would likely be the Knights Templar, as they already maintain a political facade.

However, in reality the Knights' primary concern is control over criminal revenue streams. Assuming the narcomantas were hung by the Knights, then their intention was likely to increase the pressure on the authorities to act against the self-defense groups, who are proving to be a persistent thorn in the Knights' side, and it is unlikely the region will see any sort of conventional guerrilla movement any time soon.

Investigations

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