MEXICO CITY – Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced plans for a new citizens patrol to bolster public safety in the troubled western state of Michoacan, where existing rural militias were recently absorbed into a force under army control.
“We have established coordination with the state government to make a citizen force, another level of force, precisely to further strengthen the capacity of the security institutions in the state of Michoacan,” he said during an official visit to the region.
Meeting with residents in Tepalcatepec, Peña Nieto recalled that the town was the birthplace in February 2013 of the armed militias organized to protect communities from criminals, notably the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) cartel.
“It was then that we decided to create the rural force, which will come to replace the municipal forces that are institutionally weak after some of their elements were co-opted by organized crime,” he said.
The Mexican government, Peña Nieto said, supports the idea of citizens’ self defense, but insists it must be implemented through institutional channels.
Substantial portions of Michoacan were effectively under the control of the Templarios until mid-January, when the federal government mounted an offensive with the aim of smashing the cartel and bringing the militias to heel.