Huffpost Latino Voices

Mexico Vigilante Groups To Become 'Institutionalized' Under New Deal

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MEXICO VIGILANTES
Men belonging to the Self-Defense Council of Michoacan, (CAM), stand at attention during the burial of Mario Perez at a cemetery in Antunez, Mexico, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. Perez was one of the three civilians killed a day earlier by federal forces after they tried to disarm men belonging to a self-defense group that is fighting to rid the Knights Templar drug cartel in a region of Michoacan state known as Tierra Caliente. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

MEXICO CITY (AP) — After months of tacit cooperation with rural vigilantes trying to drive out a vicious drug cartel, the Mexican government has moved to solve one of its toughest security problems with a plan to legalize the growing movement and bring it under the army's control.

The risks are high.

To succeed, the government must enforce military discipline and instill respect for human rights and due process among more than 20,000 heavily armed civilians before sending them back home to the western state of Michoacan.

In other Latin America countries, similar experiments have created state-backed militias that carried out massive human rights abuses as armed civilians turned to vengeance, or assisted in mass killings. The Mexican army itself is accused of abuses in the drug war.

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