Trading Violins For Guns: Combating Cartel Violence


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Efrain has set aside his violin and picked up a rifle. This man is a man who once prided himself on entertaining audiences as a mariachi singer in the Mexican state of Michoacan. Now Efrain driven by hopes of avenging the deaths of his two young nephews.

The young men were just nineteen and twenty years of age when they were murdered by members of the vicious "Knights Templar" drug cartel. They had been kidnapped. Even though their family managed to pay the ransom money as demanded by their captors, the nephews were murdered anyway.

Efrain seeks to defend his remaining family members and prevent such a tragedy from happening again. He is part of a group of vigilantes which formed last year in an effort combat cartel-related violence in the region of Tierra Caliente. The area has become the central combat zone between the Knights Templar and the vigilantes.

The Mexican drug cartels have spent years terrorizing the families within their reach. In addition to trafficking, they engage in hostage taking and extortion. As with Efrain, often the targeted individuals are harmed and murdered even when they comply. The goal isn't just to make money; it's to promote a sense of sheer terror.

Efrain shared that as a mariachi singer, he would often be forced to perform at parties thrown by members of the drug cartels. However, now he and other victims decided they'd had enough. They were and are determined to fight anyway they could.

But some are questioning the true motivations of the vigilantes. Despite being made up of money-strapped locals, it is curious how they came to be so well armed. This supposed discrepancy has led to rumors that rather than being made up of local victims, it is a group of individuals funded by rivals drug cartels, looking to claim the territory the Knights Templar are fighting to control.

An anonymous woman who was questioned by the AFP believes the truth may lie somewhere in the middle.

"It is clear that they got fed up with making payoffs to the Knights Templar. All we want is to not have to pay them so they will leave us alone".

Image via Wikimedia Commons