An armed group declaring war on Mexico’s corruption has sprung up in a regional hotbed of organized crime and insurgency, where public distrust in state institutions continues to stir conflict.
The group, which calls itself the Insurgency for Institutional and Social Rescue (Insurgencia por el Rescate Institucional y Social – IRIS), has declared a “war” against politicians with alleged ties to organized crime in the southern state of Michoacán, Proceso reported.
IRIS, which has released at least three short videos on social media, recently granted Proceso an interview with its representative and spokesperson, who calls himself José María.
A video report by Proceso on a group of armed men who say they have taken up arms against corruption in Mexico.
“Our objectives are corrupt politicians,” María stated. “We will not kill them, we are not terrorists, we are not assassins. We will expose them.” Although armed, María told Proceso that the insurgents will only use their weapons for self-defense.
The group has accused Michoacán governor Silvano Aureoles and former Michoacán security commissioner Alfredo Castillo of links with drug-trafficking organizations.
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IRIS first announced its existence via banners and social media postings in February 2016. This was around the same time other banners appeared, announcing the creation of the “Nueva Familia” organization, a group that some government officials said had criminal ties.
Following the publication of Proceso’s report, Michoacán Attorney General José Martín Godoy Castro stated that there was no evidence of a guerrilla insurgency in Michoacan, and that this was a case of false video recordings. State governor Silviano Aureoles Conejo also dismissed the group as a “joke.”
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It is so far unclear whether or not this new armed group should be considered a genuine threat, or whether they are a small mix of idealists who pose no danger to the state.
As security analyst Alejandro Hope has pointed out, although IRIS appears to be poorly armed and low in numbers, the group should not be immediately be given the brush-off.
While the group’s motives may appear to be too vague to appeal to a large following, “anyone looking at the autodefensas [the self-defense forces of Michoacán, which IRIS members participated in] in early 2013 would have probably said the same thing,” Hope stated.
The comparison is a significant one. Michoacán’s vigilante movement was created to fight violent organized criminal groups in the region. Although it managed to gain significant power and local support, it later became embroiled in drug trafficking and in 2014 it was integrated into a questionable rural police force.
The disappearance of 43 students in the nearby state of Guerrero further fueled widespread distrust of the government, sparking concern that this dissatisfaction could feed broader insurgent movements.
Michoacán remains in disarray, and its weak institutions are unable to prevent numerous small armed groups from taking shape. With tensions still bubbling under the surface, how much influence IRIS or other new armed groups will amass remains to be seen.