Peace Rallies in Michoacan Demand Police Withdrawal

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Sunday peace rallies across Michoacan emphasized a deep distrust of government authority, with some demonstrators voicing support for the Familia Michoacana.

In Apatzingan, where Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, alias “El Chayo,” was killed last week, demonstrators held rallies on Friday and Sunday, asking for the withdrawal of the security forces. Pictures of women and children holding signs in support of the Familia were widely circulated by Mexican media, including social networking sites like Twitter.

Apatzingan mayor told El Universal that religious groups had organized the protests, which he said were not endorsed by the city. In an interview with W Radio, he blamed the police for the violence in Michoacan. “[The violence] is not brought about by delinquent groups, but by the federal police, who come and, excuse me, they enter all of the homes, the houses in the municipality,” he said.

Similar bad feeling against the security forces were on display Monday, as an estimated 150 demonstrators marched in Morelia, reports local paper Cambio de Michoacan. Many carried banners and sings that were critical of President Calderon.

One banner explicitly expressing support for the Familia appeared Monday in central Morelia, Cambio reports. The banner asked the presumed heir of the Familia, Jose Jesus Mendez Vargas, alias “El Chango,” to “hit the government hard.” Referring to the two-day roadblocks held by the Familia last week, when security forces hunted and eventually killed Moreno, the banner asks the Familia to burn military vehicles instead of civilians’.

Another banner appeared Monday on the Morelia cathedral, referring to Moreno’s by  his other alias, “El Mas Loco.” “We are sorry about El Loco but total support for FM, the federal government must be overthrown,” said the banner, according to Cambio.

Eighty banners critical of the police and military also reportedly appeared in three towns across Michoacan Sunday, reports Cambio. These were quickly removed by police.

It is possible that much of this apparent “grassroots” support for the Familia was orchestrated by the group, as another demonstration of their strength on Michoacan territory. But the ongoing rallies appear to indicate that the government is not winning the war for “heart and minds” in rural, isolated states like Michoacan. 

As of Monday the body of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez was still missing. 

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