Armed residents take part in a march for the first anniversary of the citizen's vigilante groups, in Ayutla de los Libres, on January 5, 2014, in the southeastern state of Guerrero, Mexico. Hundreds of civilians armed with rifles, pistols and machetes decided to provide security for the communities of Guerrero, creating a vigilante force, following robberies, kidnappings and murder by gangs. Guerrero, home to the Pacific resort town of Acapulco, has been one of the states hardest hit by Mexico's drug violence, which has left more than 70,000 people killed across the country since 2006.
Growing tension between Mexican police and vigilantes who have challenged the government's authority in Michoacan state is showing no signs of slowing. The vigilante groups held onto their guns on Wednesday as federal authorities struggled to reign in the fast-growing citizen militias.
The groups sprang up in response to heavy violence from the area's drug cartels but have morphed into heavily-armed militants. The government initially tolerated, possibly even encouraged, the groups in their fight to challenge the drug cartels but now that the violence has grown out of control they are now calling for them to drop their arms and go home. How did the vigilante groups grow out of control in the first place? Who are they fighting?
Carrie Kahn, NPR Correspondent based in Mexico City