Updated 10:07 AM EST, Sat, Dec 15, 2018

Mexico Anti-Cartel Vigilante Leader Jose Manuel Mireles Arrested in Michoacan

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Anti-Cartel vigilante leader Jose Manuel Mireles, the prominent leader of a "self-defense" group fighting against Mexican drug cartels in Michoacán, has been arrested for unauthorized gun possession in Mexico.

His arrest comes on the heels of reports that Manuel Mireles refused to align himself with the new rural police force, who has, over the last few weeks "urged" vigilante groups to ally with them or disarm themselves completely.

Mireles was detained under Mexico's strict firearms and explosive guidelines, and authorities allege that he was carrying weapons only cleared for military use in Mexico. 83 other suspects were arrested along with Manuel Mireles.

The vigilante leader has made headlines in recent weeks for a suspicious airplane crash, after which Mireles disappeared for weeks. Upon his return, he staunchly refused to align himself with the new government police force.

Mireles claims that his arrival in Michoacan came after locals called upon him for protection against criminal gangs that are running the area. He arrived with more than 100 group members in tow, most of whom were armed with automatic rifles.

Groups like the one Jose Manuel Mireles leads, mostly comprised of local farmers or laborers, began to rise up in early 2013 in response to the police corruption and increasing violence and control by narco-traffickers in Mexico.  

The Mexican government was slow to recognize the groups, but in May 2014 agreed to give the vigilantes uniforms as well as legalize their movement while requiring them to register with the Mexican government.

There are around 30 towns who have joined in the vigilante movement at this point, feeding fears that the group may become a dangerous paramilitary force if they continue to grow in popularity. 

While Mireles may be the vigilante hero to some, others are not so quick to give the leader such credit. In May, the council of self defense forces dismissed Mireles from his role as spokesperson, saying his "recent actions" had cost the lives of five civilians. 

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