Hipolito Mora, a top leader of the "community police" self-defense network in Michoacán, was detained by state police March 10 as a suspect in the slaying of two members of the movement. The detention comes amid an armed stand-off between rival factions of the self-defense network in the town of Buenavista Tomatlán. Hundreds of police and soldiers have been sent to the town as factions have seized turf and drawn lines across the municipality. Mora was helicoptered from Los Palmares ranch, in an outlying area of Buenavista, where he and his armed followers were holed up against rivals. The rival outfit, based in Buenavista's hamlet of La Ruana, is said to be led by Luís Antonio Torres González, who goes by the nom de guerre "Simón El Americano," because he grew up in the US. Torres González told local media that the two dead men were part of his defense group. Their bodies were found inside a pick-up truck that had been set on fire.
The confrontation has raised questions about the recent deal that made the "community police" militias a part of official law enforcement in Michoacán -- sparking fears that the government has let an estimated 20,000 heavily armed vigilantes take over basic police functions in the state without knowing what forces are really behind the movement.