MEXICO CITY – The armed vigilante groups that arose to defend communities in the western Mexican state of Michoacan from the depredations of a powerful drug cartel voiced satisfaction Monday over the arrest of one of the gang’s leaders.
Jesus Vasquez, alias “El Toro”, considered one of the seven capos of the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar), was among 38 criminals apprehended in a joint police-military operation in Michoacan, federal authorities said Sunday.
“We’re pleased by his arrest, he’s one of the people who did the most harm to society, above all in Tepalcatepec, where he was boss of the territory,” militia leader Hipolito Mora told MVS radio.
Vasquez is on the list of the seven top Templar kingpins whose arrest was demanded by self-defense militias as a condition for handing over their arms to federal authorities and going back to the communities they came from.
The prisoner is responsible for kidnappings, murders and extortions, Mora said.
Mora asked the federal government to keep working as it is doing now and acknowledged that “there is more peace” today in the Tierra Caliente region, which straddles Michoacan, Guerrero and Mexico states.
The Mexican government launched a widespread operation last week to restore order in the region, the scene of armed clashes between the Caballeros Templarios and self-defense vigilante groups.
Federal forces “are doing well... I’m sure they’re going to catch the rest” of the Templarios leaders, Mora said.
The offensive began with attempts by soldiers and Federal Police to disarm the vigilante groups, but after an incident where four civilians were killed, the national government changed tack.
About the self-defense vigilantes’ cooperation with federal authorities, Mora said they are “giving them information about where to find those thieves and murderers.”
Only a few vigilantes are still carrying weapons and all the guns will be handed over when order is restored and all the Templarios kingpins are under arrest, he said.