The disappearance of 10 members of the self-defence movement is one factor enabling its formalisation by the federal government under the name of “rural forces”. The people’s will to resist in Michoacán is giving way to this new police force.
The last case of the series is related to the forced disappeared of 10 members of the “Movimiento de Autodefensa” of Michoacán.
The movement started in Tierra Calientes, where rural communities decided to defend themselves from the violence present in the territory.
Two major causes for the start of the movement are the high level of violence perpetuated by the “Knights Templar” cartel and the inefficiency of state authorities in providing social security.
Within this scenario, the movement rapidly expanded within Michoacán, eliminating the presence of the cartel in the controlled areas.
While the movement initially got the support of the federal government, they then challenged it, as members of the movement were detained and increasing pressure has been exercised to formalise the movement under the name of “policía rural”.
Indeed, the movement has been undermined by the police force in different ways. While Mireles, the leader of the movement, was detained under the accusation of possession of drugs and illegal weapons, 10 members of the Autodefensa disappeared under what local authorities defined as “mysterious circumstances”.
The members of the movement left for an operation in Apatzingán. They were travelling with four trucks identified with the logo of the “rural forces”.
Only one of the trucks came back and members of the rural police could not explain to the family members of the disappeared what happened to them. They only said that the youth had been victims of an ambush.
The following day, Monday 24th November 2014, two of the disappeared, commander Gerardo Serafín and Nicholas Serafín, were found beheaded. Family members of the 10 victims, together with other members of the social movement, pointed out connections between members of the rural forces travelling with the disappeared, local authorities and the cartel.
The forced disappearance the members of the “autodefensas” is relevant because the movement represents a discrepancy in the narrative of the War on Drugs.
This is because the movement was initially successful in the defence of the population in the areas it controlled, highlighting the inefficiency of local state authorities and the federal government in their war against narcos.
Furthermore, the disappearance of members of the movement can be seen as a repression of it, to leave space to the formalised rural police controlled by the state.
Within this context, it is important to highlight the fact that major newspapers did not report this case of forced disappearance. Instead, independent media such as “Animal Político” and “La Vanguardia” documented it, stressing the gaps in the version offered by local authorities. They also interviewed family members of the disappeared and described their pressure on state bodies to achieve justice.
The silence of the mass media about the disappearance of the members of the movement illustrates the inherent subordination of major newspapers to political elites, as the government increasingly attempted to put the movement out of action. Instead, information on mass media has been focused towards the detention of Mireles for of possession of illicit arms and drugs.
In the articles written on the topic it is possible to find a clear attempt to criminalise the leader, since the imputations to justify his detention are not questioned.
The lack of documentation of the disappearance of the members of the movement, together with the criminalisation of its leader, can be understood as an attempt to undermine the relevance of the autodefensas by mass media.
The covering up of the cases of forced disappearance of the members of the movement, together with the general criminalisation of its structure posed a challenge for civil society to emerge and resist. Indeed, family members provided an attempt to raise awareness about the case, dire
ctly blaming the federal police for the violation.
However, their struggle has remained marginal. This is mainly because only independent media took any interest in the case. From what has been documented, family members mobilised by pressuring local authorities and occupying streets. Nevertheless, there is no information related to the pro gression of their struggle. The mass media proved themselves to be a powerful tool to discredit the resistance to Mexican narco-politics and the abuses related to them.
If the mass media continue failing to provide critical information, the systemic cases of political repression taking place in the country will remain marginal, and social mobilisation to resist to this practice will be eclipsed.