Turmoil in Michoacan

A Mexican bishop has rebuked the federal government for sending soldiers to seize the weapons of self-defense groups formed to fight off violent drug cartels and criminal gangs in the western state of Michoacán. Bishop Miguel Patino Velázquez of Apatzingán said the strategy was wrong and targeted the people trying to protect themselves. Bishop Patino issued a pastoral letter on Jan. 15, shortly after an attempt by soldiers to disarm a self-defense group near the town of Antúnez went awry, leaving at least three villagers dead. “Instead of searching for the criminals harming the community, the Mexican military, acting on the orders of superiors, went to disarm the self-defense groups,” Bishop Patino said. “The situation got out of control and [the soldiers], seeing themselves surrounded by the population, started to shoot, first in the air and later at persons.” The incident demonstrated the deep distrust many in this rugged region of Michoacán have in their institutions, which have been unable or unwilling to dismantle a drug cartel known as Knights Templar and its predecessor, La Familia Michoacana, over the past seven years.

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