Mexican troops arrest vigilantes
Published 08/03/2013 | 05:16
Mexican soldiers have detained 34 vigilantes who formed part of a "self-defence group" that allegedly kidnapped police officers earlier this week.
The army raid in the town of Buenavista represents the strongest blow yet against the growing vigilante movement that has seen masked townspeople throw up checkpoints in several parts of southern and western Mexico.
The vigilante groups say they are fighting violence, kidnappings and extortions carried out by drug cartels. But concerns have surfaced that they may be violating the law, the human rights of people they detain, or even co-operating with criminals in some cases.
Sensitive over their lack of ability to enforce public safety in rural areas, officials have, until now, largely tolerated vigilante groups that have sprung up in Michoacan and neighbouring Guerrero state.
But the Buenavista vigilantes apparently overstepped the bounds of that tolerance when they took over the town's police facilities, kidnapped officers and seized police weapons and vehicles this week.
The army said 29 assault rifles had been seized in the raid, along with 15 pistols, but did not reveal how many of those were police weapons.
The soldiers freed five municipal police officers and the police chief and recovered a half dozen vehicles the vigilantes had seized.
There was no immediate information on whether the 34 detained vigilantes had been formally charged, but they could face weapons possession, kidnapping and other charges.
The mayor of Buenavista, Luis Torres, told the Milenio television news channel that the vigilantes were "people who are from the town ... I respect them, I respect their ideas ... but not their way of acting".
He said he hoped soldiers and federal forces would take over security in the town.