Mexico Army Moves into Michoacan Despite Protests

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Mexican security forces installed a new base to combat armed groups in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán, after days of protests from the community that highlight citizens’ fears that the presence of federal police may increase insecurity and human rights violations.

Citizens of several municipalities in Michoacán have been protesting the intervention of federal security forces since Monday, April 11, when authorities moved into the region in order to create a military base. Protests broke out after the security forces arrested 12 people accused of gun law violation. Some of the detainees were allegedly associated with Los Viagras, a criminal organization operating in the area led by the Sierra Santana brothers, Excelsior reported.

Residents claimed that law enforcement violated human rights while carrying out the arrests. Protesters blocked several roadways in the region with torched vehicles. Over a three-day period, at least 31 people were arrested and 33 vehicles, two gas stations and two supermarkets set ablaze, El Universal reported.

After negotiations, locals agreed to clear the roads on April 14. 

InSight Crime Analysis

For years, Michoacan has been an area where both criminal and vigilante groups, or “autodefensas,” have been able to flourish. Several criminal groups, such as La Familia Michoacana and the Knights Templar, have splintered under pressure from the security forces, creating new factions battling for control of the criminal economy.

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The Viagras are accused of involvement in criminal activities, even though they have their origins in Michoacán’s legal self-defense forces. They have also been linked to the H3, an affiliation of criminal groups including the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (Cartel de Jalisco – Nueva Generación – CJNG).

Despite the documented ties between Michoacán’s self-defense groups — and the insecurity the region faces as a result of the plethora of armed groups — these recent protests indicate that local communities still have a high distrust in government institutions. Arguably, rebuilding this credibility is the major challenge facing the government in Michoacán. 

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