The people of a certain Mexican province (area) did not feel that the Mexican government was protecting them from a powerful drug cartel (an illegal drug organization). Therefore, they felt compelled to (they felt they had to) defend themselves. I am not sure where they acquired their guns but they formed a little army of their own and they have been fighting against the drug cartel.
Now the Mexican government is asking them to give up their weapons and stop fighting. The government is saying they will begin to protect the people of that area. The problem is, nobody seems to believe the government. So the 'vigilantes' are refusing to give up their guns. The government is calling this group a 'vigilante' group. Vigilantes are people who do not trust the police or their government, and who try to enforce the law by themselves (they try to fight criminals by themselves).
When you read the following article, you can think about whether you think these men who formed this vigilante group were justified (right) in doing so and you can think about what you would have done. Would you have joined such a group? If you were in this type of group, would you stop fighting and trust the government?
Here is an article about the Mexican 'vigilantes.'
Vocabulary to help you understand the article:
vigilantes - people who do not trust the police and who go after criminals themselves (like Zoro or Batman :P)
to urge - to encourage, to persuade
to stand down - to stop fighting, to give up fighting
to pledge - to promise
masked - the 'vigilantes' wear masks so that neither the drug cartel nor the government will know who they are.
a cartel - an illegal organization
The Knights Templar cartel - this cartel is named after a group of soldiers that fought in Europe for the Catholic Church from about 1100 AD to 1300 AD.
converging on - they are all moving toward this town from different directions
a stronghold - an area where the gang has a lot of power and control
urban battle - a battle in a city where many innocent people might be killed
federal forces - government forces/soldiers
to contain the violence - to control the violence
grinding violence - violence that never seems to stop and which is always a source of trouble. To grind something is to rub against the thing hard in order to remove little bits of the thing.
a steady stream of killings - a lot of killings that keep happening, like a stream of water that keeps flowing
plagued his predecessor - that caused nothing but extreme trouble for his predecessor (a predecessor is someone who comes before someone else)
drug trafficking gangs - gangs that sell drugs
waging battles - fighting battles
a siege - an attempt to attack and take control of a city
to spark - to cause
law enforcement - making sure the laws are carried out and that criminals are captured and brought to trial
rising extortion - increasing extortion. Extortion is when someone demands money or he will harm someone.
to tolerate - to allow
to oust - to get rid of, to remove
a push - an initiative, an attempt to reach a goal
toted - carried (these guys have modern, effective weapons, unlike other groups of poorer vigilantes)
barreled into - forced their way into like a rolling barrel
a convoy - a collection of cars and trucks
to liberate something - to free something
greeted by sporadic gunfire - sporadic means a few gun shots here and a few gun shots there...nothing very long or hard. They were 'greeted by' this shooting - they experienced this type of shooting.
improvised masks - masks created quickly out of whatever was available
bandannas - a piece of cloth you can tie around your forehead
a mixed message - if you get a mixed message from someone the message is partly a 'yes' and partly a 'no.'
legitimate concerns - real concerns, concerns that are right or which should be taken seriously
their ascendance - their rise
a checkpoint - a point in a road which you cannot pass unless the soldiers know who you are
bearing arms - carrying weapons
incursions - invasions
a rival - a competitor, someone who is a threat to you
low-intensity wars - little wars
deteriorated - got worse, safety got worse after the government troops started fighting
peaked - reached a high point
marijuana plantations - farms where marijuana is grown. So farmers began growing plants that would produce stronger drugs. I guess they were offered more money by the cartels to do this or their lives were threatened by the cartels so they had to do this.
mutilated corpses - a corpse is a dead body. A mutilated corpse is a corpse that has been cut up.
a mass grave - a hole in the ground with many dead bodies in it