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Villagers return following vigilante violence in Mexico

August 6, 2021 GMT

TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico (AP) — About 370 people who had fled confrontations between vigilantes and armed groups in Mexico’s southern Chiapas state returned to their village Thursday, according to a local priest.

In July, a couple of hundred armed men descended on the mountain township of Pantelho, burned vehicles and at least a dozen homes, vandalized the town hall and abducted 21 people.

The Rev. Marcelo Pérez said the villagers had agreed to return after government-sponsored peace talks began.

Officials said a newly formed vigilante group called “El Machete,” has formed armed brigades, pledging to fight the incursion of drug cartels in the largely Indigenous mountain communities of Chiapas.

The vigilantes, who appear to include members of the Tzotzil Indigenous group, are calling themselves a “self-defense force,” a phenomenon seen for years in some western Mexican states.

After El Machete announced its presence earlier this month, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he would not accept the presence of the so-called self-defense forces, which have often themselves been allied with criminal gangs.