Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday that his government will not accept armed self-defense groups that say they have formed to protect themselves against criminals.
His comments came after members of a new vigilante movement named “El Machete” (The Machete) showed off weapons including automatic rifles at a parade at the weekend in southern Mexico.
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“In no case will the formation of so-called self-defense groups be accepted,” Lopez Obrador told reporters.
“It’s our responsibility to guarantee peace and calm and we are doing it.”
Although such groups say they are taking up arms because of insecurity in parts of the country, the real reason may be political and criminal power struggles, he said.
It is necessary to establish where these organizations get their weapons, Lopez Obrador added.
Self-defense movements have proliferated since the 1990s in Mexico, mainly in the southern state of Guerrero and, more recently, in neighboring Michoacan.
It is estimated that there are around 50 of them operating in the country.
On Sunday members of El Machete, including members of the Tzotziles and Tzeltzales communities, gathered at a football stadium in the southern state of Chiapas brandishing their weapons.
A spokesman for the group said that they armed themselves “to defend their lives against the drug cartels’ assassins,” accusing the local authorities of colluding with criminals.