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Mexico registering anti-drug vigilantes to give them official status

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Mexico has started registering vigilantes fighting a drug cartel in the western state of Michoacan to classify them as official rural defense groups, an official said Thursday.

In the next few days some 400 to 600 people are expected to be registered, said Alfredo Castillo, a federal government commissioner for security in Michoacan.

The registration of these people will include what kind of weapons they have, he said.

The vigilantes rose up in 2013 to defend their villages from drug traffickers who extort money and kidnap and kill people.

On Monday the government announced it would "institutionalize" the vigilantes with the goal of increasing security.

But the agreement was reached only with militia in eight towns in Michoacan, the stronghold of the Knights Templar cartel.

Altogether more than 20 towns have such self defense groups.

Castillo said the government hoped to reach accords with all civilian armed groups in Michoacan.

The legal trappings of institutionalizing rural defense groups goes back to the 1960s in Mexico.

Leaders of some of the current militia say they total around 10,000 people, fed up with what they say is the government's failure to take on the cartel.

Drug-related violence in Mexico has left more than 77,000 people dead since 2006.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140131/mexico-registering-anti-drug-vigilantes-give-them-official-status