To many in Buenavista, a small town in the central Mexican state of Michoacán, Luis Antonio Torres is a hero. The Texas-born vigilante, known as “The American,” was one of the first commanders of armed citizens who rose up against the Knights Templar drug cartel, which was extorting local farmers and taking control of their lucrative cattle ranching business, among other things.
Yet for others here in central Mexico, Torres—a hulking man with a shaved head and a grim demeanor—represents the fear that these vigilantes, orautodefensas, are nothing more than bad guys in disguise. Torres is allegedly linked to the Viagras, a group of hit men who once worked for the Knights Templar and another cartel called Jalisco New Generation before signing with the vigilantes. He has always denied any links to criminal gangs, but his actions raised eyebrows across this rural state when early last month he led a caravan of trucks filled with heavily armed men into the town of La Ruana, reportedly looking to pick a fight with the local vigilante group for allegedly ordering the murder of a man suspected of being the leader of the Viagras.
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Posted in: Mexico