Vigilantes in Michoacan

Mexico nationals living in the United States are helping fund the country's ever-growing self-defense militias, while recent gruesome murders indicate the internal armed conflict will not be calming down any time soon.

According to Fusion TV, Mexican immigrants living in California have sent up to $250,000 in the past three months to vigilante groups in Michoacan, bolstering their ongoing battle against the Knights Templar criminal organization. The news follows a recent LA Times report that some US-based Mexican nationals have returned to their homeland to join the vigilantes.

Fundraisers interviewed by Fusion said the money does not go towards acquiring weapons; it is used for humanitarian aid, essential supplies and financial support for widows of the conflict, as well as assisting with the medical costs of a vigilante leader hurt in a plane crash.

This news comes as reports emerge of a possible violent backlash from the Knights Templar, who have been under severe pressure from vigilantes and state security forces. Various media reports have indicated the recent discovery of four severed heads in an indigenous settlement in Michoacan may be linked to the group. However, AFP reported the heads were found with a note indicating the decapitations were the work of Knights Templar opponents.

InSight Crime Analysis

Reports that Mexicans living in the United States are sending large quantities of money to the vigilantes emphasizes the popularity these groups enjoy in the regions where they operate. Years of corruption, alleged collusion with organized crime, and ineffectiveness in fighting criminal groups has destroyed people's faith in local law enforcement and recent related violence led the national government to send in state forces to restore order.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Knights Templar

While this latest report demonstrates the support enjoyed by the vigilantes, it is also another worrying sign of their growing power. As the government has moved to place these groups in a legal framework, analysts and academics have called for caution based on concerns they could evolve into dangerous paramilitary forces. The recent revelation that mining companies pay these groups for protection also echoes the path trodden by Colombia's paramilitaries, which received protection fees from oil companies. 

The apparent attempt by the Knights Templar to reassert themselves following the arrests of important leaders suggests the worst of the conflict is yet to come, and with the vigilantes receiving financial backing from various sides, the question remains whether the government can keep them in check if the violence escalates.