Vigilante "self-defense" groups in the southern Mexican state of Michoacan have in recent days stepped up their campaign to seize control of small towns and cities in the area known as Tierra Caliente, or Hot Land. Their goal is to rid the area of the Knights Templar drug cartel.
But last 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, averting what could have been a bloody battle for the city of more than 90,000 residents.
As of Saturday, an uneasy peace reigned in much of Michoacan. But the vigilantes had not ceded any of the territory they had gained, including the smaller city of Nueva Italia, which fell to them after a gun battle last weekend. Though cartel allies were believed to be lying low in the town, the vigilantes' control gave them the opportunity to see how at least one top cartel leader lives.
These photos, taken in the Nueva Italia home of Enrique "El Kike" Plancarte Solis, offer a glimpse of luxury that most of the vigilantes -- many of them are small farmers or agricultural workers -- would have seen only on television. Plancarte, a key Knights Templar boss, remains at large.