Mexico City (AP) — The Mexican president said Tuesday that he would not accept vigilantes to arm, suggesting that they were serving local political bosses and gangsters.
President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador responded to a weekend training conducted by about 100 vigilantes in southern Chiapas. The group, dubbed “Machete,” said it was formed to drive drug traffickers out of the indigenous community.
Lopez Obrador said he was using it as an excuse, suggesting that vigilantes may have obtained miscellaneous weapons from criminals.
“In any case, armed groups are not accepted,” said Lopez Obrador. “This can be used as an excuse for a lot of crime, but it’s not. It could be a political conflict.”
The president said his administration was still studying groups formed in the town of Chiapas in Pantello, but he refused to believe they were just residents tired of crime and murder. Did.
“It’s a matter of political manipulation in the area, control by the boss,” he said. “Or it’s a criminal. You need to figure out where they got their weapons.”
After the former administration temporarily accepted so-called “self-defense” groups in western Michoacan in 2013 and 2014, it turned out to be mostly drug gang invasions. Lopez Obrador said it was a mistake he didn’t intend to repeat.
But he didn’t say whether his administration would try to disarm them. As part of his “Hug, Not Bullet” strategy, Lopez Obrador has enthusiastically avoided open conflicts with protesters, drug cartels, and most others.
But that strategy has not reduced Mexico’s crime or murder.
The town of Pantello has experienced many conflicts in the region since mid-June, and local human rights groups say that about 2,000 people have been displaced in recent years due to combat.
It was unknown who organized or armed the Machete Vigilante, which appears to contain members of the Tzotzil Indigenous Group. The men appeared primarily masked, with a black T-shirt with the group logo and a pair of crossed machetes.
In a statement previously posted on social media, a masked spokesman for the group claimed that about 200 residents of Pantello had been killed by “drug traffickers” in recent years. The Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco Cartel appear to be fighting for control of the area used to transport both drugs and migrants from neighboring Guatemala.
“We must save the lives of our community,” said an unnamed spokesman. The group was responsible for a shootout that killed several people in Pantelho in June.
“We entered (in town) not to attack people, but to expel professional murderers and drug traffickers,” the statement said. “When we free it from professional murderers and drug traffickers, we withdraw as the Self-Defense Forces because we don’t seek money or power for ourselves.”