Knights Templar, a notorious Mexican drug cartel, is squaring off with self-defense groups from the Mexican state of Michoacan. The escalating conflict between the self-defense groups and cartels led to a shootout this past weekend in Apatzingan, as well as attacks on power stations in 14 cities that left thousands without power.

The self-defense groups marched the streets in opposition of the cartels - which are guilty of racketeering, extortion, hangings, shootings and kidnappings. These groups were created as a vigilante response to the cartel's thriving influence and violence. The self-defense groups marched through different towns in the Tierra Caliente (Hot Lands), and when the protestors were stopped at the entrance of Apatzingan, the biggest city in that area and the main station for cartel's outfit. The self-defense groups arrived, armed and "liberate" the city, but were turned away because of their weapons by military. When hundreds returned the next day unarmed, or having relinquished their weapons, they were permitted and promised protection by the military. Instead, they were ambushed and met with showers of bullets as soon they entered the center of the town; the bullets allegedly dealt by members of The Knight Templar.

"They attacked us with grenades and with M60 machineguns, judging by the bullet holes in some of our vehicles," self-defense leader Jose Manuel Mireles said. "We are going to make sure that organized crime is expelled from Apatzingán," he said. "They will try to respond."

The army reacted on behalf of the self-defense groups, shooting at gunmen in vehicles, who were believed to be members of The Knights Templar. Grenades were also thrown, and snipers were positioned atop of the town's cathedral. The cartel's fury was prompted by the defense group audacity, being that Apatzingan is so steeped in Knight Templar's control and terror that rivals wouldn't dare to enter. During the crossfire, Cartel members were also suspected of simultaneously attacking power plants in 14 towns, leaving 420,000 citizens without power for a short period of time. Also, at least four petrol stations were set ablaze.

Despite good intentions, the self-appointed defenders received slack from counter-demonstrators, who demanded the withdrawal of federal support of the groups, claiming that that those groups create more violence in the region. They're being accused of inciting an "undeclared civil war," which would lead to more fatalities.

The government, both, supports and condemns vigilante organizations, impart because they are political actors who are mobilizing on behalf of Mexico, but they encourage violence simply through their presence. The cartels sponsored demonstrations that called for federal police to leave the city.