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Magnum Photographers
Featured Essays
January 23, 2014
by Jerome Sessini
In Mexico, a country widely controlled by drug cartels, groups of armed vigilantes known as fuerzas autodefensas, or self-defense groups, have been rising up over the last year and in recent weeks have taken over communities in the state of Michoacan. The militia have surrounded Apatzingan, thought to be a key stronghold for the Knights Templar, controlling surrounding towns after violent street clashes as they move to weaken the hold of the Knights Templar on the region.

The state of Michoacan is a key trade hub, known for its rich farming land, producing limes, avocados and mangoes. Clashes between armed civilians and the drug cartels have been occurring throughout the last year as residents strike back against the reign of terror brought about by the drug wars.

In these newly occupied towns the citizen militia have disarmed and detained local police, claiming that both police and government forces are corrupt and in league with the cartels.
Between fear and surprise, the villagers welcome the vigilantes, and they admit a little resign, that the government was unable to solve the problem of violence related to drug trafficking. Worse, they accuse the authorities to let the cartel to take the power in the state of Michoacan.
“We do not take up arms for fun, but to do the work that the government is unable to do " Says a leader undercover of vigilantes.
It is in the state of Michoacan that President Calderon launched his attack in 2007 against the cartels. 7 years later, the appearance of vigilantes groups sounds like a bitter confession of the failure of the government.

Mexico’s drug war has wreaked havoc on the country with staggering levels of crime and violence and these civilians armed with AK47s are fighting back to liberate the country. Jerome Sessini travelled with the vigilantes as they captured the towns of Paracuaro and Nueva Italia. After the previous project in Mexico “The Wrong Side”, Sessini continue to document the consequences of drug trafficking on Mexican society.