Mexican townspeople protest arrival of vigilantes

Paracuaro, Mexico -

Residents of a town in western Mexico set fire to at least three trailer trucks on Thursday to protest the arrival of more than 100 vigilantes to their community.

A vehicle burns at the entrance of Paracuaro, Mexico, on January 9, 2014. Paracuaro residents set at least three trailer trucks on fire to protest the arrival of more than 100 vigilantes to their town. Picture: Eduardo Verdugo. Credit: AP

The burning trucks blocked roads leading into Paracuaro in Michoacan state before federal police and soldiers removed them.

The “self-defence” group arrived on Saturday in pickup trucks and SUVs and set up a checkpoint at the entrance to Paracuaro, a town of artisans and lime farmers. They disarmed some police officers on suspicion they were working with drug traffickers. An unidentified man was killed in a gunbattle after the vigilantes seized the town.

Townspeople said they oppose the vigilantes because they are forcing young men to join them.

Vigilante groups have formed to confront drug cartels in parts of Michoacan, a rich farming state that is a major exporter of limes, avocados and mangos.

Rumours circulate that some self-defence groups have been infiltrated by the New Generation cartel, charges that the groups vehemently deny.

New Generation has been fighting a turf war with the Michoacan-based Knights Templar cartel. Some people in the region say members of the Knights Templar have also tried to use self-defence groups as cover for illegal activities. - Sapa-AP