Mexico's government on May 10 started to swear in members of the "community police" vigilante network in Michoacán state for a new rural police force, which is supposed to bring the self-defense militias under state control.
An initial 240 "community police" members gathered for the ceremony in the village of Tepacaltepec, a stronghold of the movement, where they received new blue uniforms and registered their rifles, or turned them in for state-issued AR-15s.
The ceremony was overseen by the federal pointman for Michoacán, Alfredo Castillo, who waxed florid for the occasion: "Those who 15 months ago said 'Enough!' and decided to confront those who did them harm -- because of them today we have the State Rural Force that carries the same conviction of justice, of courage, valor, and bravery needed to protect those who we love the most: our families,"
A former "community police" leader named Estanislao Beltrán AKA Papá Pitufo (Daddy Smurf), was named as leader of the new State Defense Force. But José Manuel Mireles, who had been the most visible leader of the movement, was not at the ceremony -- pointing to the likelihood of some vigilantes refusing to register with the government, even at risk of arrest or confrontation with the "official" security forces.
The registration process has just begun, and militia members will have the choice of affiliating either with the State Defense Forces, under National Security Commission of the Governance Secretariat, or the Rural Defense Corps under the National Defense Secretariat. Some 800 have apparently registered with the Rural Defense Corps, and are to be sworn in later this week.
Critics point out that those signing up with either force have received no training, physical or psychological exams, or background checks. It has not been even been determined what their salaries will be.