Self-defence militias are waging war against Mexico’s most powerful cartel and bravely trying to reclaim seized territory.
The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) has become the country’s dominant gang, and trafficks huge quantities of drugs into the US.
Around September 2019, the CJNG invaded the central state of Michoacan to take on the Cartel del Abuelo in Tepalcatepec.
Surrounding towns and villages have become embroiled in the conflict, with locals taking up arms to defend themselves.
Last month, one of these groups – known locally as an autodefensa – managed to repel a CJNG attack while travelling in an improvised armoured fighting vehicle (IAFV).
CJNG soldiers opened fire in La Bocanda, one of their strongholds, but the locals managed to stop the cartel from advancing.
Dr Robert J Bunker, Director of Research & Analysis, C/O Futures, LLC, told the Daily Star they use “localised strong point defenses and the cutting of road networks with trenches” to defend their territory from cartels.
Describing their strategy, he added: “Additionally, the use of some forward bases and offensive mobile forces to take back cartel seized villages.
“Attempts made to bring the press in to broadcast the CJNG deprivations taking place.
Cartel 'guns down' Mexican politician at restaurant in popular beach resort
“The region has devolved into a Dark Ages-like situation with villagers taking up arms since the Mexican Federal government has failed in its duties to protect its citizens.”
However, the CJNG possesses years more experience, with many of its members going through military-style training.
Dr Bunker added: “Their arsenal includes heavy and medium machine guns, launched grenades, and RPGs. IAFVs are common in their commando units.
“ISR drone use including for propaganda purposes—some CJNG weaponised drone use beginning.”
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In contrast, the militias are typically equipped with older weaponry including shotguns, hunting files, and pistols.
Other assault rifles have started appearing among the groups, though body armour is “less common”.
Dr Bunker continued: “In addition to the CJNG and the defending militias in conflict with one another, competing cartels and gangs as well as local, state, and federal police forces and military forces are in play.
"Alliances between these groups constantly ebb and flow given the high levels of police corruption that exist and the constant penetration of the militias by the cartels and/or the danger of these militias turning into organised criminal groups.”
Mexican journalist murdered by 'cartel members' after he took snaps of crime scene
Last month, a politician was gunned down at a Mexican beach resort – with the CJNG thought to be behind the attack.
Aristoteles Sandoval, 46, was shot in the back as he went to the bathroom at a restaurant in the town of Puerto Vallarta.
Mr Sandoval, who governed the state of Jalisco from 2013 to 2018, was declared dead in hospital.
Investigators believe the deadly attack was meticulously planned by the killers, who waited until Mr Sandoval had gone to the bathroom and left behind his two bodyguards.
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