- Feb 8, 2009
- Reaction score
Federal authorities rushed Monday to head off a mini-civil war in the "hot land" of Mexico's Michoacan state, urging rural vigilantes to lay down their arms and go home rather than attempt to seize a city of 90,000 that has become a stronghold of a drug cartel calling itself the Knights Templar.The armed peasant groups emerged last year to fight off the cartel, which had metastasized throughout the southwestern state, coordinating the lucrative methamphetamine trade and extortion rackets and wielding significant control over the major container port of Lazaro Cardenas. Until recently, the self-defense groups had been largely tolerated, if not encouraged, by President Enrique Pena Nieto's administration, which had allowed them to staff some roadblocks alongside federal police and soldiers.But in the last week, the groups have taken control of a number of communities surrounding the city of Apatzingan. Their leaders declared that their goal was to drive the cartel out of the city for good.