Vigilante trains with rifle and machete in southern Mexico

Mexico City (AP) — When about 100 vigilantes armed with rifles, shotguns and machetes conducted public training in southern Chiapas, another shadow group of armed residents appeared in Mexico over the weekend. It was.

A group in the town of Pantelho, introduced as “The Machete” in a speaker, claims to be fighting the invasion of drug cartels in the mainly indigenous mountain communities of Chiapas. Some training was conducted in the Maya language.

There have been many conflicts in the region since mid-June, and local human rights groups have stated that in recent years about 2,000 people have been displaced from their homes for combat.

Vigilantes, which appear to include members of the Tzotzil Indigenous Group, call themselves “Self-Defense Forces,” as other groups did in western Mexico in 2013 and 2014.

However, so-called “self-defense” groups in Michoacan and Guerrero were often infiltrated by drug gangs. In Michoacan, the group was formed to expel the Knights Templar drug cartel, but eight years later, the state left the jockeys on the battlefield for control by rival cartels.

It was unknown who organized or armed the Machete Vigilante in Chiapas. The man appeared primarily masked, with a black T-shirt with the group logo, a pair of crossed machetes, and a miscellaneous array of weapons.

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 immigrants 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.”

President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador has sent soldiers and National Guard to the area, but downplays the importance of recent events and states that “it does not represent a risk to the rule of law or stability.”

The Frey Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center said that military presence around Pantello and the nearby town of Chenaruo was forcibly evacuated by “general violence caused by organized crime” in the area. It helps to deepen people’s fears and fears. “

The center estimates that 12 people have been killed in the area since March. The center did not directly comment on the nature of the “machete” group, but cited conditions that would lead to the development of such a movement.

“In recent years, the presence of criminal groups trying to control the territory has prevented these communities from maintaining peace. It is a spiral of violence seen in displacement, family killings, and conflicts between armed groups. (Of suspicious origin) and drug blockade. “

“Due to the structural violence in Chiapas, the townspeople have set up an organization aimed at combating historical injustice,” the center writes.

Local politics also seems to play a role. Vigilantes have accused Mayor Pantello, who won the recent elections for forming an alliance with drug traffickers.

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