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Mexican Vigilantes Agree To Disband, Allowed To Keep Weapons And Join Rural Police Force

A man belonging to the Self-Defense Council of Michoacan, (CAM),  peers through the sight of his weapon at a checkpoint in Nueva Italia, Mexico, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. A day earlier the self-defenses encountered resistance as they tried to rid the town of the Knights Templar  drug cartel while the government announced today that federal forces will take over security in a large swath of a western Mexico that has been hard hit by violence. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

A man belonging to the Self-Defense Council of Michoacan, (CAM), peers through the sight of his weapon at a checkpoint in Nueva Italia, Mexico, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. A day earlier the self-defenses encountered resistance as they tried to rid the town of the Knights Templar drug cartel while the government announced today that federal forces will take over security in a large swath of a western Mexico that has been hard hit by violence. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)  (AP2014)

The Mexican government has announced that it has come to an agreement with the vigilante groups patrolling the state of Michoacán to disband by May 10.

Alfredo Castillo, the person from the administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto who is heading up the talks, added that while the vigilante groups will be forced to disband, those who want to continue patrolling the towns of Michoacán will have to become part of a new statewide rural police force. The vigilantes will also be able to keep their weapons regardless of whether they join the police force, as long as they register them with the army and keep them at home.

“Beginning May 11, any [armed] person not registered, not uniformed, will be arrested,” Castillo said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The May 10 deadline is meant to give Mexican security forces time to vet and train vigilantes who want to join the rural force and also purge the local police forces of any officer known to have ties to criminal organizations.

The disbandment of the vigilantes is seen as an about face from earlier this year when the group said they would not disband until the Mexican government had secured the region.

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The unrest is in a region of Michoacán known as Tierra Caliente, a farming area rich in limes, avocados and mangos where vigilante groups have been trying to drive out the Knights Templar drug cartel.

Federal officials met with Jose Manuel Mireles Valverde, who represented the vigilante groups, on Monday in Tazumbos, a community in the western state of Jalisco.

The leaders of the self-defense groups in the cities of Buenavista, Tancitaro, Los Reyes, Peribán, Uruapan, Aguililla, Aquila, Chinicuila, Taretan, Patzcuaro, Coalcomán, Coahuayana, Lombardia, Ziracuaretiro, Apatzingan, Tepalcatepec, Churumuco, La Huacana, Mugica and Huetamo also attended the meeting.

Castillo and the vigilante leaders reached agreements covering legalization and coordination; demobilization; dialogue; compensation; legal solutions; and protection for leaders at the gathering, federal officials said.

The first vigilante group was formed in Michoacán on Feb. 24, 2013, to fight the Caballeros Templarios cartel.

Vigilante groups operate in 30 of the state's 113 cities.

The federal government deployed soldiers and police in Michoacán on Jan. 13 in an effort to end the wave of drug-related violence in the state.

Federal security forces killed the Knights Templar cartel’s two top leaders, Nazario Moreno González and Enrique Plancarte Solis, in February and March, respectively.

Moreno and other members of the Familia Michoacana gang formed the Knights Templar organization after he was reported killed by the government in 2010.

The Knights Templar cartel, which deals in both synthetic and natural drugs, commits murders, stages kidnappings and runs extortion rackets that target business owners and transport companies in Michoacán.

The cartel uses Michoacán's 270 kilometers (168 miles) of coastline to smuggle chemical drug precursors for the production of synthetic drugs into Mexico.

The Associated Press and Efe contributed to this report.

The Associated Press and Efe contributed to this report.

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