Groups of armed civilians blocked roads in at least seven municipalities of the violence-plagued Mexican western state of Michoacan Sunday to demand the government agree to allow the groups to provide security in their territory.
The Self-Defense groups also protested the disappearance of the Rural Police Force, sources in three municipalities reported.
In the populous municipallity of Apatzingan, groups blocked four access to the city and closed the local bus station.
According to local media, the armed civilians are lead by Estanislao Beltran Torres also known as “Papa Smurf,” the spokesman and leader for the so-called Self-Defense groups in the state. These groups are said to be comprised of well-off agricultural producers and former members of the Knights Templar cartel who have been forgiven by the self-defence groups.
The Self-Defense groups, who emerged in in violence-inflicted areas of Mexico as protection against drug cartels, claim that the federal government’s plan to restore peace to the region has so far failed.The movement aims to negotiate with the government in order to re-establish a rural police force under their control, along with salaries, weapons and patrols, and have threatened that they will continue acting independently if the government does not agree to their term.
In January of this year, the Mexican government signed an agreement that would allow these armed civilians to keep their arms as long as they had permits. However in early April, the government announced its intention to remove all weapons from civilian hands in Michoacan state.
Self-Defense groups are opposed to disarming, saying that the Knights Templar Cartel hitmen as well as the group’s founder, Servando Gomez, aka “La Tuta” or “El Profe,” are still free.