In Michoacán, the place where the movement of “Self-defense” from Mexico, a new group has emerged made up only of women, who carry assault rifles and erect roadblocks to chasing away what they say is a violent raid in the state of Michoacán del violento Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
Some of the more than 40 women are pregnant, while others take their young children to the barricades.
The rural area is crossed by dirt roads, through which they fear that CJNG armed men can enter at a time when Michoacán’s homicide rate has risen to levels not seen since 2013.
Many of the vigilant women in the town of El Terrero have lost children, siblings or parents in the fight. Eufresina Blanco Nava said her son Freddy Barrios, a 29-year-old lemon picker, was allegedly kidnapped by CJNG men in pickup trucks. Since then, she has not heard from him.
“Many have disappeared. Many girls are also young ”, said Blanco Nava.
Also read: That they return our children to us, alive or dead: they ask in Michoacán
A woman, who asked that her name not be mentioned because she has relatives in areas that are controlled by the CJNG, commented that the criminal organization kidnapped and disappeared his 14-year-old daughter.
“We are going to defend those who remain, our children who remain, we are going to defend them with our lives,” he added.
“We are already tired of our children and our families disappearing like this,” said the woman. “They take our sons, our daughters, our relatives.”
That is one of the reasons why women decided to take up arms: There are fewer and fewer men in the hot land from Michoacan.
“Just be a man who can use a weapon, they take it away,” said the watchman. “They disappear it. We do not know if they bring them or have already killed them, “he added.
In addition to barricades and roadblocks, the vigilantes have a kind of homemade tank and a pickup truck with a steel plate armor. In other nearby towns, residents have dug trenches in the races leading to neighboring Jalisco state to keep criminals out.
Alberto García, who is also a vigilante, has seen the medieval side of the war: He hails from Naranjo de Chila, a town just across the river from El Terrero and the birthplace of CJNG leader Nemesio Oseguera. García said he was expelled from the town by the men of the organization because he refused to join the group.
“A brother of mine was killed too”, Garcia said. “They already dismembered an eight-month pregnant sister-in-law as well,” he added.
The attacks of the CJNG
For a long time, El Terrero has been dominated by criminal groups The Nueva Familia Michoacana and the Viagras, while the CJNG controls the south bank of the Rio Grande. In 2019, the Viagras hijacked and burned half a dozen vans and buses to block the bridge that crosses the river to prevent CJNG caravans from entering a surprise attack.
And that same year, in the neighboring town of San José de Chila, rival groups used a church as an armed stronghold to fight a CJNG offensive. Barricaded in the church tower and along the roof, they tried to defend the town against the incursion, leaving the church full of bullet holes.
It is this marked division in which everyone is forced to choose a side – be it the CJNG or the Nueva Familia Michoacana and the Viagras – that has convinced many that the vigilantes of El Terrero are only soldiers of walk from one of those last two gangs.
Also read: CJNG attacks communities and burns 11 vehicles in Coalcomán, Michoacán
We are not criminals
The vigilantes reject claims that they are part of any criminal organization, but they clearly point out that the CJNG is their rival.
They said they would be more than happy if the police and the military came and did that job.
El Terrero is not far from the town of La Ruana, where the real self-defense movement was formed in 2013 by lemon grower Hipólito Mora.
After successfully pursuing the Knights Templar cartel, Mora, like most of the early leaders, has distanced himself from the groups that are called self-defense groups that are still active. He is now a candidate for governor.
“I can almost assure you that they are not legitimate self-defense groups,” Mora reported. “It’s organized crime,” he said, adding that the few self-defense groups that exist have allowed criminals to infiltrate.
The current governor of Michoacán, Silvano Aureoles, is more blunt. “They are criminals, period. Now, to spread a blanket there to protect their criminal activities, they call themselves self-defense groups, as if that were a passport of impunity, “he said.
But somehow, Mora said, they continue the same conditions that led to the movement in 2013: the authorities and the police do not apply the law and do not guarantee peace to the residents.
Sergio García, a member of the El Terrero group, said that his 15-year-old brother was kidnapped and killed by the CJNG. Now, he wants the justice that the police have never given him.
Also read: Michoacán will not allow criminals to disguise themselves as self-defense groups: Aureoles