This story in the LA Times about what's happening in Tierra Caliente, which mostly produces avocados and meth, is both heartbreaking and heartening—the government tried to come down on the narcos of La Familia, the narcos responded by becoming even more powerful and more thoroughly integrated into the police and military.
Always remember when reading stories about the drug war: In Mexico, the government forces and the narcos aren't like two separate soccer teams duking it out. They've been holding hands, in one way or another, since the Colonel Esteban Cantú Jiménez figured out he and his army pals could make a lot of money off of the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 by growing their own opium poppies in northern Mexico. Arguably, the first narco kingpin was a retired military officer.
Anyway, in Tierra Caliente, the farmers decided they wouldn't take it anymore, armed themselves, and are now defending their own turf on their own terms:
This western-most section of Michoacan state is experiencing a rare phenomenon in Mexico: Communities have risen up against the drug-trafficking gangs that terrorized them for years. And although questions remain over who exactly is behind all of it, the developments are posing a challenge to President Enrique Peña Nieto, who must confront the possibility of widespread vigilantism, possibly even outbreaks of civil war. His decision to send in the army last month was the first major military operation against traffickers in his 6-month-old administration.
Locals had tolerated cartel henchmen for years — and often collaborated with them — but increasingly, the bad guys harassed the public. First there was the steady stream of extortion as the cartel, which took the name Knights Templar ("Caballeros Templarios") after the Middle Ages crusaders, gained a stranglehold on the economy throughout Michoacan, one of the most bountiful agricultural states in Mexico.
The Templarios dictated whom cattlemen could sell their stock to, then insisted on a 10% cut. Same with lumber. Lime pickers, tortilla vendors and everyone else had to pay a fee to the cartel. Homeowners had to pay 1,000 pesos, about $80, per square yard of their houses.
Refusal meant your business or residence might be burned down. Ten lime pickers who resisted were slaughtered, their bodies dumped on the side of a road, in mid-April. Garcia said he had to pay 10% of his municipal budget to the Templarios as protection money.
Then, they began raping women, often the wives or daughters of prominent residents. "That's when it became a matter of dignity," Garcia said.
All the money, guns, law enforcement, and "just say no" campaigns in the world aren't able to curb the drug trade—instead, in some areas, it's threatening government legitimacy and power altogether.