Guerrero Towns Form Vigilante Group against Familia Michoacana

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A group of residents from 40 different towns in Mexico’s war-torn Pacific state of Guerrero, all from the San Miguel Totalapan region, nestled along the state’s desert sierra, announced on Saturday, March 25, that they had created a vigilante defense organization to protect their community from the brutal Familia Michoacana (FM) cartel that dominates the area.

“Because we cannot depend on either the federal or state governments to protect us, we are taking on the job for ourselves,” the group, which calls itself the Union of Peoples of the Sierra, said in an Internet communique.

According to municipal commissioners and residents, the vigilante defense force had already killed 29 members of the Familia Michoacana criminal organization over the course of the last three weeks.

“We are fighting at four points in the Sierra,” said a farmer-cum-militant.

The group said in its communique that is “does not trust the state police,” so it has “posted armed men to prevent incursions by criminal groups” into its villages.

The Familia Michoacana, allegedly led by José Alfredo, alias “El Fresa,” and Johnny Hurtado Olascoaga, alias “El Pez,” is known to extort, charge land-use rights and control most economic activity in Guerrero’s Tierra Caliente.

The group said that it had met in a communal assembly on Thursday, March 23, with representatives of all its members and had agreed to “continue fighting the cartel.”

“We have a thousand armed men,” said one municipal commissioner at the time.

During that meeting, the Union of Peoples of the Sierra called on Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador(AMLO) to provide it with support to confront the criminal organization.

“If López Obrador does not respond to the call of the citizens, we are going to respond because we are willing to defend our homeland, our families and our assets,” said one of the assistant commissioners.

The group also demanded that the Guerrero Governor Evelyn Salgado Pineda, a member of AMLO’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party, “carry out her duties” to protect the people of her state.

“We will no longer tolerate her doing nothing,” the communique said.

The hostilities between the two armed groups from this part of the Sierra de San Miguel Totolapan and Heliodoro Castillo intensified after a confrontation between elements of the Army and members of the Familia Michoacana last week, which left five members of the cartel and two soldiers dead in the scuffle, and two soldiers wounded.

A part of the Sierra, which is where the turf wars are taking place, is also dominated by the organized crime group Los Tlacos, led by Onésimo Marquina Chapa.

This organization, like the FM, has imposed its own “rule of law” in the area, charging permit fees and imposing extortion in municipalities in the central and northern region of the state of Guerrero.

Since October of last year, when members of the FM massacred 20 people in San Miguel Totolapan, including the town’s mayor, the Mexican Army, National Guard and the state police have been deployed to the region, but have essentially turned a blind eye to FM cartel abuses.

To date, no one from this organized crime group has been arrested, and the FM has since even extended its dominance in other areas of Guerrero due to the inaction of the authorities of the three levels of government

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