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Dr. Mireles, the bad guy

Friday, May 16, 2014 0:06
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Proceso (5-14-2014) 

By Jose Gil Olmos

Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat

[This is a good overview by Jose Gil Olmos. -- un vato]


MEXICO, D.F., (apro).- One of the pillars that supported the citizen self-defense groups from the time they were created on Februry 24, 2013, in the Michoacan Tierra Caliente (Hot Country), was their autonomy from the state and federal governments. This gave the movement legitimacy and credibility, even though their use of weapons could have been considered unlawful.
For over a year, they were seen in many parts of the country — those with the same problems of violence and insecurity — as the most legitimate response by a society fed up with the abuses by organized crime and its government accomplices, the military and police forces that fostered an environment of mistrust for any person who dared denounce them.
During the months when they operated free from the burden of spotlights or the temptations of power, money and political office, the “autodefensas” did what the governments of Felipe Calderon and Enrique Pena Nieto could not: wrest Michoacan from the grip of the Caballeros Templarios. 
With weapons in their hands, first the Tierra Caliente residents, then the coastal people and the Purepechas advanced through areas that were under the yoke of the Templarios. They seized 24 municipalities from their domain and were able to establish in each their own self defense groups and even citizen councils which took the place of mayors or elected councils. 
Jose Manuel Mireles, a doctor from Tepalcatepec with a political history distant from the PRI’s, became the focus of media attention with his articulate and challenging discourse that clashed with the official version. His tall, gangly figure, his bushy mustache, the hat, these became emblematic of the self defense forces that kept their distance from the federal government that first year.
As time passed, the government co-opted several of the self defense forces representatives, who since January were the protagonists in every advance made against the towns that were under the control of the Templario criminals. 
On January 4, Mireles suffered an airplane accident and, during his absence, federal commissioner Alfredo Castillo asked that another spokesman be named for the autodefensas. From that moment on, Estanislao Beltran, “Papa Pitufo”, a lemon grower from Buenavista Tomatlan, climbed up on the stage.

Without a leadership presence or a political voice independent from the government’s, Estanislao Beltran turned out to be more comfortable than Mireles in the government’s plans to eliminate the autodefensas, which by that time had become an icon for other groups dissatisfied with the government’s inability and ineptitude in dealing with organized crime.

On February 24, upon his return to Tepalcatepec and after his convalescence from the airplane accident, Mireles retook the streets and, among his peers in the autodefensas, assumed not just the role of spokesman, but was also designated general coordinator of the citizen self defense groups. With this designation, he became the “pebble in the shoe” of the Pena Nieto PRI government.

For weeks, Castillo met with the autodefensas without including Mireles. “Papa Pitufo”, Alberto Gutierrez, “El Comandante Cinco”, Nicolas Sierra, leader of the “Los Viagras” gang, and others would attend the meetings, in which the commissioner obtained the agreement for the disarmament and demobilization of the autodefensas after May 10.    

Early in April, Mireles objected not being included in the meetings, and, after a series of mobilizations in several Tierra Caliente municipalities and Purepecha towns, he was invited to the subsequent meetings, where he was the only dissident voice against the plans by the federal government to eliminate the autodefensas. In addition, he denounced the enrichment of some of his fellow members and their ties to organized crime groups.

For the Pena Nieto government, Mireles’ presence became increasingly bothersome, and before the day for the disarmament came about, a strategy was deployed to nullify and discredit him, taking advantage of the leader of the autodefensas’ own weaknesses.

“Papa Pitufo” and “El Comandante Cinco”, who frequently acted as Castillo’s messengers, were the peons used in the government’s strategy: they accused Mireles of mental deficiency, of profiting from the movement, of the deaths of five young men in a confrontation in Caleta de Campos; the only accusation lacking was that he was also a Templario.

They betrayed him despite the fact that they were companions in the same cause. The commissioner sealed the strategy by stating that Mireles would be investigated for the death of the young men, in addition to confirming that he was no longer the intermediary with the autodefensas.

Today, the Michoacan autodefensas movement has ceased to exist in the Tierra Caliente. There are still some operating in the Costa and Purepecha areas, along with patrols and community police (“policias comunitarias”). The government turned the movement into a media phenomenon and nullified it by converting it into a rural force under the command of the State Public Safety Secretariat (SSP), the same agency that was infiltrated by organized crime.

Maybe the federal government is betting that, with the nullification of Mireles’s leadership, it will be able to control the Michoacan autodefensas movement and achieve the pacification in the state.

However, it is not taking into consideration that there are already municipalities like Los Reyes, Periban, Tocumbo, Tinguindin and Cotija which have rejected submission (to the government) and instead have expressed their support for the doctor from Tepalcatepec.

They have also pointed out that there exists a plan to form a national autodefensas movement that intends to channel the social dissatisfaction expressed throughout the country with the government’s inability to smother organized crime.

The nullification of Mireles’s leadership and the institutionalization of the autodefensas has not put an end to the problem of organized crime in Michoacan, nor has the arrest of the Templario leaders and the imprisonment of certain government officials, such as interim governor Jesus Reyna.

Worse, groups that previously were present in the state, such as the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas and the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, have returned, and the social structure that for so many years supported the Templarios remains intact. Maybe there has been a pause in the violence, but the problem has by no means been resolved.



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