Mexicans do not have the benefit of the Second Amendment, but in the west coast state of Michoacan, failure of the police to control the cartels threatening a major economic sector – lemon growing – led to a pitched battle in February of 2013 between the Knights Templar cartel and a self-defense group in the Tierra Caliente area of the state.
The self-defense groups in Mexico rather resemble the informal militias in the United States which have responded to police excesses from time to time. Think the Battle of Athens, TN in 1946 and the standoff at the Bundy ranch in Bunkerville, NV in March of 2014.
An online Mexican publication, Nexos, published a lengthy article about the Michoacan militias by Lourdes Cárdenas from which I am excerpting and summarizing for this article.
Cárdenas says that there are nearly four million people from Michoacan residing in California alone. Many of them actively support the self-defense groups by sending money for buying guns or by returning temporarily or permanently to Michoacan to take part in the groups.
Cárdenas gives the reader vignettes of some who have supported the resistance to the cartels. One was Génesis Cárdenas, who left Mexico with her husband before finishing high school. Following a massacre of 14 lemon growers in April of 2013, Cárdenas organized financial support using the internet.
Seeking to be more directly involved, Génesis Cárdenas drove to Michoacan with five grandchildren in her Suburban. She began an effort to free from jail on trumped up charges a self-defense group leader and presidential candidate, Dr. Juan Mireles, a surgeon. She did get him out of jail – after the election which he lost.
The Mexican government has sought to control the self-defense groups by folding them into the Rural Forces set up by the government. Worse still, these Forces have also been penetrated by Cartel sympathizers.
Cárdenas had to return to California with a lot of debt and without her car which was unrepairable. Her plight reminds us of “no good deed goes unpunished.”
Leaving México does not guarantee leaving the Knights Templar behind as José Díaz can testify. He serves in the U.S. military and was trained as a welder. He complains of the apathy of many from Michoacan now living in the US. They are often not interested, and sometimes afraid, to offer support from their perch in the US the self-defense groups
The Knights were scooping up women in bars to have their way with them until self-defense groups arose to put a stop to that in California.
Valentín Horta was kidnapped while visiting back in Mexico. He is not sure why, but he was not killed. That experience made him a convinced and practicing gun owner. He always has a gun with him.
In February of 2013, when the people rose up in arms, Horta organized fund raisers for the people in his home town of Coalcoman. Later, on a business trip back home, he decided to stay a while and joined the self-defense group in Villa Victoria. He looked at it as defending where he is from, where his parents still live. Besides, he points out, what is happening in Michoacan could happen anywhere.
Fidelina Gonzalez and her husband planned on returning to their hometown of Tepalcatapec where they built a nice large house for retirement. After settling in, the violence in Michoacan caused them to return to the states after only one month in their dream home. One day Fidelina and her grandchildren were out in a field when they found themselves in the crossfire of a gunfight between two rival gangs. “That was the last straw,” said Fidelina.
Now Fidelina is trying to sell the house for someone to live in before one of the gangs occupies it. Back in the states, she is raising money for her family to buy an AK-47 and a 9mm. That requires much sacrifice, because she and her husband are just making it on the two jobs they each hold down.
For this reason, it is easy to understand that when the government this year ordered that the registered guns be turned in, nobody did according to Fidelina. Shades of the non-compliance in Connecticut and New York.
And in Tepalcatapec the situation is calm. That, and just barely surviving in California, has caused Fidelina’s family to return to their house in Mexico.