MORELIA, Mexico – Two members of an indigenous self-defense group were killed by police in western Mexico, the Michoacan state Attorney General’s Office told Efe.
The victims, both with the community militia in Aquila, died shortly after 5:00 p.m. Tuesday in a brief gunfight with police.
Police and soldiers detained 45 members of the Aquila militia last week, most of them on weapons charges.
The cops involved in Tuesday’s clash were escorting agents of the state AG’s office as they tried to serve arrest warrants on other members of the self-defense group.
Residents of Aquila and other indigenous communities in Michoacan and neighboring Guerrero state recently formed militias to defend themselves against a criminal organization that calls itself “Los Caballeros Templarios” (Knights Templar).
The Caballeros are said to dominate the trade in synthetic drugs bound for the United States, such as crystal meth. But the gang also preys on ordinary people, engaging in extortion, kidnapping and murder.
The Indian community militias are lawful under provisions of the Mexican Constitution that protect traditional customs and practices of indigenous populations, though they remain subject to Mexico’s strict gun laws.
At around the same time as the fatal confrontation in Aquila, hooded assailants burned a bus used by family members of the 45 militia members arrested last week to travel to Morelia, the state capital, to demand the release of their loved ones.
The attack occurred just four blocks from the regional delegation of the federal AG’s office.
The Aquila residents were eating nearby as the bus was burning.
Residents of the neighborhood told Efe police ignored their calls reporting the presence of suspicious men hours before the assault.
Forty of the 45 militia members arrested last week are facing federal prosecution for possession of military-grade weapons. The other five were wanted by the Michoacan state AG’s office on a variety of charges.
Aquila residents say that one of those five, town leader Agustin Villanueva Ramirez, was detained at the behest of multinational miner Ternium, which extracts iron ore from the community’s lands. EFE