Vigilante "self-defense" groups in the southern Mexican state of Michoacan in recent days have stepped up their campaign to seize control of small towns and cities in the area known as the Tierra Caliente, or "Hot Land." Their goal is to rid the area of the dreaded Knights Templar drug cartel. But this week, just as the vigilantes were poised to bring their battle to the Knights Templars' most important regional stronghold, the city of Apatzingan, the Mexican government flooded the state with troops and federal police, thus averting what may have been a bloody battle for the city of more than 90,000 residents.
As of Friday, an uneasy peace reigned in much of Michoacan. But the vigilantes have not ceded any of the territory they have gained, including the smaller city of Nueva Italia, which fell to the self-defense groups after a gun battle Sunday morning. Though cartel allies are believed to be laying low in the town, the vigilantes' control of the small city has given them the opportunity to see how at least one top cartel leader lives.
These photos, from the inside the Nueva Italia home of Enrique "El Kike" Plancarte, offer a glimpse into a world of luxury that most of the vigilantes--many of whom are small farmers and agricultural workers--would have otherwise seen only on television. Plancarte, a key Knights Templar boss, remains at large.