Mexico vigilantes urge more 'self-defense' groups

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Photo - Father Alejandro Sololinde holds up a broom marked with a green ribbon as he urges people to support vigilante groups' efforts to sweep clean the country, during a national meeting of self-defense groups, in Mexico City, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. Other speakers at the meeting included Michoacan vigilante leaders Jose Manuel Mireles, left, and Hipolito Mora, second left, as well as Ernesto Ruffo, right.  Activists and social representatives announced Wednesday their intention to form a network of self-defense forces on a national scale that will denounce and confront violence. The network will shun the use of weapons. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Father Alejandro Sololinde holds up a broom marked with a green ribbon as he urges people to support vigilante groups' efforts to sweep clean the country, during a national meeting of self-defense groups, in Mexico City, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. Other speakers at the meeting included Michoacan vigilante leaders Jose Manuel Mireles, left, and Hipolito Mora, second left, as well as Ernesto Ruffo, right. Activists and social representatives announced Wednesday their intention to form a network of self-defense forces on a national scale that will denounce and confront violence. The network will shun the use of weapons. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Human rights activists and vigilante leaders who rose up to fight a drug cartel in western Mexico on Wednesday urged Mexicans to form "self-defense" groups to demand public security and justice.

In a meeting Wednesday, they called on the people of Mexico to declare themselves members of "self-defense" groups but without arming themselves.

Dr. Jose Manuel Mireles, one of the vigilante movement founders in Michoacan state, said there needs to be "consciousness-raising" among Mexicans.

"The self-defense groups in Michoacan are willing to defend Mexico. We're willing to never lay down the weapon that is the truth," he said.

Thousands of farmers and ranchers in Michoacan first formed self-defense groups in February 2013 to fight the Knights Templar drug cartel, which was extorting them and taking their land and cattle by force.

The armed groups forced authorities to crack down on the cartel.

Most of its leaders have been arrested or killed in the last year.

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