New Brunswick Tribune

In Mexico City, 500 vigilantes have gathered to protect avocado growers

key takeaways:

  • Armed with AR-15s and other weapons, the vigilantes assembled in the village of Nuevo Urecho in the western state of Michoacan.

Extortion of avocado producers has become so terrible in western Mexico that 500 vigilantes from a so-called “self-defense” group called United Towns, or Pueblos Unidos, assembled on Saturday and offered to help police.

The vigilantes gathered in the town of Nuevo Urecho in the western state of Michoacan, armed with AR-15s and other weapons, as well as a jumble of shotguns, for a rally.

They said that drug cartels such as the Viagras and the Jalisco cartel have begun levying ‘war fees’ of roughly $1,000 per acre ($2,500 per hectare) on avocado farmers.

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Growers and farmers created the group in 2020 in response to extortion demands and kidnappings, and it now boasts around 3,000 members.

“Several of us have been victims of this circumstance, kidnappings, and extortions,” claimed one masked vigilante leader, who did not want his name publicized for fear of gang retaliation.

For the time being, the vigilantes appeared willing to comply with Gov. Alfredo Ramirez Bedolla’s promise to disarm the state’s different “self-defense” groups.

The vigilante leader claimed, “We established arrangements with the mayor to boost the number of police officers monitoring the neighborhood.” “We’re putting our firearms away for the time being, but we’ll be ready to come out and help the cops at any time.”

Over the last year, Pueblos Unidos has held armed marches in numerous Michoacan towns. Still, they have always stated that they would prefer to have legitimately established security forces handle the job of ousting criminal groups.

Except for extremely low-caliber hunting rifles or shotguns, Mexican law prohibits practically all civilians from owning firearms.

However, armed citizen “self-defense” vigilante militia movements have existed in Michoacan from 2013 and 2014. Previously, vigilantes successfully drove out the powerful Knights Templar cartel, but competing organizations such as the Viagras and the Jalisco cartel have since crept in. Plenty of people have fled their homes as a result of kidnappings, murders, and gunshots.

500 vigilantes gather in Mexico town, pledge to aid police

The Mexican army has dispatched troops to the state, but solely to operate as a buffer between the rival cartels, ensuring that neither invades the territory of the other.

On the other hand, soldiers do little or nothing to prevent illicit gang activity within a few hundred yards from their checkpoints.

In the face of massive extortion by the Viagras, Jalisco, and other gangs, Michoacan locals have once again taken up arms.

This time, the self-defense movement is primarily active in avocado-growing areas that were not at the heart of the 2013 vigilante revolt.

As the avocado industry has grown in popularity and profitability, drug cartels and gangs have begun extorting protection costs from producers.

Unlike other self-defense’ groups that have been infiltrated or taken over by drug gangs, Pueblos Unidos leaders claim they are not affiliated with any of the warring gangs and are eager to lay down their arms.

“We’ve never taken over a town,” one masked vigilante leader explained. “We are not a cartel or anything of the sort.”

Source: Global News

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