Michoacan, where a bulletproof vest is part of a priest's wardrobe

Reuters

by Reuters

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It's a place where a bulletproof vest is part of a priest's wardrobe. This is Michoacan, Mexico.

Vigilantes are taking up arms as they attempt to fight off the Knights Templar drug cartel.

The drug ring has a firm grip on the state, which is an impoverished agricultural area -- and has a major port.

The vigilantes are creating roadblocks on highways with guns in hand -- refusing government orders to disarm.

They check the vehicles passing through for cartel members.

(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) MASKED UNIDENTIFIED VIGILANTE SAYING:

"Not one bullet fired from any gun. Everything was done in peace."

A priest describes the extent of the violence caused by the drug rings.

(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) FATHER GREGORIO LOPEZ SAYING:

"I am here to defend the poor for the thousands of orphans that we have. There are more than 1,000 people dead in this region. There have been some 300 and a fraction kidnappings, disappeared. We have ranches, more than 400

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