Mexico Vigilante Legalization Could Throw Together Enemy Leaders

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Mexico vigilante leader Hipolito Mora has formally applied to join Michoacan’s newly-formed Rural Defense Force, which would reunite him with his bitter rival, a man with alleged criminal ties whose dispute with Mora has already resulted in murder.  

Reports by the state’s Public Security Secretariat confirmed Mora presented his registration documents on May 20, reported Milenio. According to Michoacan’s security commissioner Alfredo Castillo, whether or not Mora will be accepted into the civilian force will depend on them passing the required training and confidence tests, as well as receiving authorization from the community, Excelsior reported.

The founder of the self-defense movement in the town of La Ruana, Mora was arrested in March 2014 for the murder of two vigilantes from a rival militia commanded by Luis Antonio Torres Gonzalez, alias “El Americano.” He was released on May 16 because of a lack of evidence.

The mass demobilization comes after vigilante leaders signed an agreement with the Mexican government in January 2014 to register arms and turn in illegal weapons ahead of incorporation into the legalized rural force, with troops already deployed in municipalities including Tepalcatepec and Coalcoman.

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If Mora is successful in his application he will work alongside Torres, creating a potentially explosive situation for an already divided leadership. The dispute between the two has already seen armed confrontations, as well as the two murders, and there have already been reports of death threats and saber rattling from both armed groups. 

The presence of Torres in the Rural Defense Force alone is troubling. Torres has faced repeated accusations of his ties to criminal groups and is a leader of “H3,” an allegedly criminalized faction of the self-defense movement — allegations the movement denies.

Another vigilante leader authorities accused of drug cartel ties, Juan Jose Farias, alias “El Abuelo,” has confirmed he will not join the force, but has been lurking in the background throughout the process. The application of recently deposed spokesman and convicted marijuana trafficker, Jose Manuel Mireles, also remains pending.

Who joins the legalized defense force, and who remains on the outside is likely to exacerbate simmering tensions among the vigilante leadership. Fears of criminal infiltration have already been fuelled by the presence of Torres, but those left to choose between disarmament and illegality may well prefer the latter, taking them closer to criminality. 

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