Some 100 gunmen from a "community police" force in Mexico's Michoacán state on Jan. 12 seized the town of Nueva Italia—precipitating a shoot-out with gunmen from the Knights Templar cartel who had been in control there. Two members of the vigilante force were wounded before the Templarios retreated, leaving the "community police" in control of thw town. It is unclear if there were casualties on the cartel's side. It seems there were no "official" police in the town, nor any army troops. Traveling in a convoy of pick-up trucks and armed with rifles, the "community police" also seized several hamlets in Parácuaro, Apatzingán and other municipalities—where several trucks and other vehicles deemed to belong to cartel collaborators were burned. Jan. 10 saw a confrontation for control of the municipal palace in the center of Apatzingán. The vigilantes also briefly set up a roadblock on the coastal highway, where more vehicles were stopped and burned—a total of 13 across the state in three days of violence.
Mexico is shocked by the murder of Mayor Ygnacio López Mendoza of Santa Ana Maya, Michoacán, who was found dead in his car in neighboring Guanajuato state Nov. 7. Just last month, he made national news when he held a public hunger strike outside the Senate building in Mexico City for 18 days—demanding more money for his town because of the 10% cut being extorted by the Knights Templar narco gang on all municipal spending. Authorities initially said the death was a traffic accident, but this claim evaporated when the autopsy report indicated "asphyxia secondary to neck trauma"—suggesting strangulation. Pressed for details by the Association of Local Authorities of Mexico (AALMAC), the Guanajuato Prosecutor General's Office, which had conducted the autopsy, admitted that López Mendoza had been tortured before being killed. During his hunger strike, López told Global Post that he knew he could be killed at any time. "We are on the knife's edge," he said. "I can be talking with you here today and in a few weeks you could be reading my death notice."
Nearly half a million were left without electricity for 15 hours after 18 substations were blown up Oct. 27 in a wave of coordinated attacks across Mexico's west-central state of Michoacán, the latest battleground in the country's relentless cartel wars. Six gasoline stations were also burned down near the state capital Morelia, in what authorities said was a terror campaign by the Knights Templar cartel. Gov. Fausto Vallejo Figueroa of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) said the violence was set off by the Jalisco Cartel, based in the neighboring state of that name, seeking to "seize territory" controlled by the Knights Templars in Michoacán, and warned of a "great massacre" (matazón).
Some 2.3 million students in the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Michoacán missed classes on Aug. 19, the first day of the 2013-14 school year, as thousands of teachers in the two states started an open-ended strike in the latest protest against US-style changes to the education system. The job action kicked off a week of demonstrations focusing on an Aug. 21-23 extraordinary session of the Congress that was to consider legislation proposed by Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto to make teacher evaluations mandatory. The protest movement was led by the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), a large dissident group in the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), with the support of several SNTE regional sections, including Oaxaca's Section 22 and Michoacán's Section 18.
One year into his term, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's cultivated image of a rebooted anti-narco effort is starting to look like more of the same. Since May, he has deployed thousands of army troops and federal police to the central-western state of Michoacán, seeking to regain control of large rural areas effectively under the control of the Knights Templar narco gang. His predecessor Felipe Calderón won widespread criticism for his militarization of the "drug war," and Calderón's home state of Michoácan was a special focus. A brief lull in violence after Peña Nieto again flooded the state with troops was broken this week as presumed Knights Templar gunmen attacked federal police checkpoints on Michoacán's coastal highway, or ambushed police convoys—or fought back when the police attacked the narcos' own roadblocks. The death toll has reached 29 over the past three days.
Violence continues to escalate in Mexico's west-central state of Michoacán, with bus transportation suspended to the towns of Apatzingán, Buenavista, Tepalcatepec and Coalcomán following a series of clashes there April 28, leaving the area effectively cut off from the outside world. At least 10 were killed in the area, in the state's Tierra Caliente region, April 29. The municipal presidency building in Buenavista remains under occupation by the Community Police, a citizen's self-defense patrol, which has seized public buildings in the town, accusing the "official" authorities of being in league with narco gangs. Several families from Buenavista have been displaced by the fighting there, and have taken refuge in Apatzingán. (Reuters, April 29; Milenio, Radio Formula, April 28)
At least 15 were killed April 10 in a series of confrontations in Mexico's increasingly conflicted Michoacán state. The first confrontation began when federal police aboard a helicopter spotted armed men traveling in four vehicles at Charapando in the muncipality of Gabriel Zamora. The gunmen opened fire on the agents, who shot back and killed five, a police statement said, adding that one of those killed was high in the leadership structure of a local drug cartel, which was not named. Two police agents were reported wounded. Hours later in the town of Apatzingan, federal agents were accompanying a procession commemorating the anniversary of the death of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata when gunmen opened fire with AK-47s. Police returned fire, killing one. Another eight were killed elsewhere in Apatzingán, when gunmen attacked a police checkpoint where trucks full of harvested lime were backed up; two police were injured, but the dead were all civilians. Schools in Apatzingán and Buenavista Tomatlán municipalities have been closed due to the violence.
Seven were killed March 29 when a masked gunman in a bullet-proof vest and black uniform opened fire with an AK-47 in a bar in in the commercial center of Chihuahua City in northern Mexico. Three of the dead were women who worked at the bar, called Mogavi. The city has seen a wave of violence as the Juárez Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel battle for control of the strategic corridor leading to the border town of Ciudad Juárez, immediately up the highway to the north. In a similar incident that night, gunmen opened fire in a bar in Ciudad Altamirano, Guerrero state, killing four civilians and three off-duty federal agents. The previous night, an armed commando raided a nightclub called La Habana in Oaxaca City, in Mexico's south, menacing staff and patrons with AK-47s, shooting up the bar's facade, and abducting one man identified only by his nickname, "El Chiquilín."