Mexico Senators Propose Amnesty for Self-Defense Forces

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Senators in Mexico have proposed an initiative to create a law granting amnesty to imprisoned vigilantes including vigilante leader Jose Manuel Mireles, but the conditions for amnesty suggest the proposal is politically motivated.

Thirteen senators from opposition parties proposed creating an amnesty law that would benefit over 380 vigilantes detained in the state of Michoacan, reported El Universal. The amnesty would apply to members of Michoacan’s self-defense groups accused of committing crimes between February 24, 2013 — which the senators consider to be the date in which the self-defense groups first appeared — and September 1, 2014, reported CNN.

In order to be eligible for amnesty, vigilantes would have to meet several conditions, including having been arrested between March 7, 2013 and September 1, 2014, and having joined self-defense groups in order to protect their families and communities from criminal organizations.

According to CNN, the initiative is based on the argument that the imprisoned vigilantes were detained for political reasons or without sufficient evidence.  

InSight Crime Analysis

The conditions for amnesty and the fact that the proposal was written by senators from opposition parties suggest the initiative is politically motivated and could be designed to discredit the government’s policies towards self-defense groups.

The dates listed in the proposal appear to have been chosen specifically to guarantee the freedom of vigilante leader Jose Manuel Mireles, who was arrested on June 27 and has been a vocal critic of the government’s security strategy in Michoacan and its policy towards vigilante forces.

In January, the Mexican government reached an agreement with self-defense forces to institutionalize the groups and incorporate them into Rural Defense Units. Only a small portion of Michoacan’s vigilantes were able or willing to join the Rural Defense Units, however, which has put the rest squarely on the wrong side of the law.

SEE ALSO: Mexico’s Security Dilemma: Michoacan’s Militias

Mireles’ capture was met with widespread criticism and protests, including a campaign encouraging supporters to shave their heads in solidarity with Mireles, whose head was shaved in prison. Even before Mireles’ arrest, a survey conducted by Parametria showed that over 70 percent of respondents had a positive image of self-defense forces, meaning that supporting the groups could be politically advantageous for opposition groups.

Aside from political considerations, the proposed amnesty law could also free members of vigilante forces who participated in criminal activities. The proposal assumes that all of the vigilantes were motivated by a desire to protect their communities, but there have been indications some self-defense forces have criminalized and allegations that others were motivated purely by profits.   

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