The Mexican Government Absorbs the Autodefensas—Or Is It Just Recognizing the Power They’ve Won?

"The lunatic is all idée fixe, and whatever he comes across confirms his lunacy. You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense, by his flashes of inspiration, and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars." —Umberto EcoIn parts of Mexico ravaged by
the drug war, ordinary citizens have
formed militias
, dubbed autodefensas, to protect
themselves against brutal cartels such as the Knights Templar. (No,
guys. These
guys.) The militias haven’t been shy about taking on the government
either: “In some instances,” a sympathetic
in Dissent notes, “the groups disarmed and
arrested the local police before acting against the criminals.”
Sometimes damned as vigilantes and sometimes hailed as liberators,
the autodefensas have represented a grassroots third
force in the conflict.

This week the dynamics of that conflict changed. Borderland


The Self-Defense Groups that emerged in Michoacán
signed an agreement today along with the federal and state
government that will transform them into elements of the Rural
Defense Corps, an existing organization under the control of the
military. Rurales, groups of armed volunteers who were
once used to keep peace in rural areas when security forces were
unavailable, once existed between 1861 and 1914, during Mexico’s
turbulent 19th century.

The signing achieved under the Agreement for the Federal Security
Assistance of Michoacán (Acuerdo para el Apoyo Federal a la
Seguridad de Michoacán), states that the government of the Republic
and the state of Michoacán came to a “conviction of rebuilding
peace and public order”. The Self-Defense Groups also agreed to
provide a list of all of its members.

So: Did the state just formally recognize the power the
volunteer forces seized for themselves? Or did it find a clever way
to take command—and take names?
Discuss in the comments

from Hit & Run

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