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Mexican vigilante leader accused in a double-murder conspiracy

Rifts begin to show among self-defense forces in Michoacán

Hipólito Mora, one of the founders of the self-defense forces, seen here last month.
Hipólito Mora, one of the founders of the self-defense forces, seen here last month.saúl ruiz

One of the founders and leading spokesmen for the self-defense forces in Michoacán state was arrested on Tuesday by Mexican law enforcement officials on suspicion of taking part in a double-murder conspiracy.

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office said that there was probable cause to arrest Hipólito Mora for the murders of Rafael Sánchez and José Luis Torres, whose charred bodies were found on Saturday.

Mora was taken to the state prosecutor’s office in Morelia, Michoacán where he was told about the murder investigation.

Alfredo Castillo, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s special security commissioner for Michoacán, said in a televised interview that the government had 48 hours to file charges against Mora.

The government has 48 hours to file charges against Mora

On Monday, residents of La Ruana said that armed groups of men stormed the municipality to take over the town’s security. Leading the vigilantes was Luis Antonio Torres, known as "El Americano" because he had lived in the United States.

After Mora said he feared for his own life and denounced Torres as being a messenger for Nazario "El Chayo" Nazario – the ideological founder of the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) drug cartel, who was gunned down over the weekend by Mexican authorities – the vigilante spokesman was flown to Mexico City by federal police for consultations.

On Tuesday, Mora was arrested at his home in Michoacán.

The self-defense forces were organized in February 2013 with the aim of kicking out the Templarios from Michoacán state. In January, Mexican authorities signed an agreement to legitimize their activities and act over rural security issues.

But over the past few days, rifts among the forces have begun to show. Some had accused Mora of expropriating lands that didn’t belong to him, including lime orchards that were the property of cartel members.