José Manuel Mireles Valverde

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José Manuel Mireles Valverde
Born(1958-10-24)24 October 1958
Michoacán, Mexico
Died24 November 2020(2020-11-24) (aged 62)
Other namesDoctor Mireles
Occupation(s)Medical surgeon
Former Autodefensa leader
SpouseAna Valencia Chavez[2] (Divorced)
Allegianceparamilitary self-defense groups
Conviction(s)Violating Mexico's federal law of firearms and explosives
Criminal chargeDetained for violating Mexico's federal law of firearms and explosives[1]

José Manuel Mireles Valverde (24 October 1958 – 25 November 2020) was a Mexican medical doctor, leader and founder[3] of the paramilitary self-defense groups that fought against the Knights Templar Cartel, and other cartels, in the state of Michoacán and others, in México.[4] Mireles emerged as an important figure within the self-defense militias during the fall of 2013 as self-defense groups were fighting against the Knights Templar Cartel in Apatzingán and other municipalities on the Michoacán coast. He described his motivation to participate in the armed self-defense groups as stemming from the abuse of the Knights Templar Cartel against himself and his family, himself having been kidnapped by the cartel and several of his family members murdered. This impelled him to take up arms in defense of his community of Tepalcatepec.[5]

On 25 November 2020, a Mexican government agency confirmed that Mireles, then aged 62, had died from "the effects of COVID-19".[6]

Early life[edit]

Some media outlets state that in 1988, at the age of 20 years, he served time in prison for allegedly producing marijuana, which Mireles has denied stating his imprisonment was for practicing medicine in Michoacán without a yet active state license.[7]

He traveled to the U.S. where he worked as a social activist. Upon his return, he started some political work and ran for the Mexican Senate in 2006.[8][9]

Involvement in Autodefensas[edit]

Mireles stated he joined the self-defense group to protect his family against the Knights Templar Cartel, after he was kidnapped by the cartel which demanded money to release him, and also had murdered several of his relatives.[5]

On 4 January 2014, Mireles was injured in a plane crash[10] as he was traveling to the community of Zicuiran.[11][12][13]

Two weeks later the Mexican government initiated efforts to control the escalating violence in Michoacán by deploying the Army against both the cartels and the self-defense militias.

Initially, a video of a badly wounded Mireles was published in which he urged the self-defense groups to lay down their arms and cooperate with the Army. But subsequently he appeared in a different video in which he stated that the self-defense groups would lay down their arms, but not until the Army had taken steps to secure their safety by curbing the activities of the Knights Templar Cartel,[14] including the capture and/or death of the cartel's top leaders: Servando Gómez Martínez (alias "La Tuta"); Nazario Moreno González (alias "El Chayo"); Enrique Plancarte Solís (alias "El Kike"); Dionicio Loya Plancarte (alias "Tío Nacho"), among others.[15]

Mireles later stated in an interview with Carmen Aristegui that the first message was the result of government officials requesting him to read a message written by them, which they then edited to make it look as if he was making the statement of his own opinion.[16][17] The Mexican Secretary of State Miguel Angel Osorio Chong denied that the government had any role in producing the initial message.[18]

In March 2014 some members of the council of Autodefensas distanced themselves from Mireles, stating that he was no longer a member of the leadership nor the official spokesperson of the Autodefensas in Michoacan.

Mireles' earlier functions were taken over by his former bodyguard Estanislao Beltrán Torres, alias "Papá Pitufo".[19][20][21]

Other Autodefensas maintained loyal to their former faction, by rejecting Beltrán's leadership, after they realized he was planning on joining the Government Rural forces.[citation needed]


On 27 June 2014, Mireles was arrested with 45 other people in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán by Mexican authorities for violating Mexico's Federal Law of Firearms and Explosives.[1] The government had pledged to arrest civilians who were armed and did not form part of the Fuerza Rural ("Rural Force") police.[22]

This action happened one week after a TV interview that was cut short as a consequence of a phone call ordering the termination of the interview, in which Mireles was denouncing the involvement of Mexico's president in the Michoacán irregularities.

From prison, Mireles sent messages to the nation through his former lawyer Talia Vazquez (the current is Javier Livas) and through the Grillonautas YouTube channel. In a message released in 2015, he stated: "Not only Manuel Mireles is innocent, but all self-defense members that had to carry a weapon to defend their home, their family, their property, because there was no one to help them."[23]

In 2016, Mireles issued an apology to the government and his family for the disrespect he has shown official institutions in the country. In a video statement posted on social media, he said, "I want to apologize, through this message, to the Mexican government and its official and unofficial institutions, and its nation-wide structures, for disrespecting them with words or actions, for offending them with my omissions and civil disobedience." Charges against him were dropped by the Attorney General; however, Mireles remained in jail.[24]


On 11 May 2017 after almost 3 years in prison, a federal judge granted Mireles parole after he paid a bond of 30,000 pesos and agreed not to leave the state of Michoacán or the country.[25][26]

Mireles was acquitted in 2018.[6]

In the media[edit]

Mireles was featured in the 2015 American documentary film Cartel Land.

Asav, the main antagonist of the 2017 action adventure game Uncharted: The Lost Legacy was inspired by Mireles. Like him, Asav was also a doctor until he became the leader of a powerful military force.


  1. ^ a b "Autoridades detienen en Michoacán a José Manuel Mireles" (in Spanish). CNNMéxico. 27 June 2014. Archived from the original on 27 June 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  2. ^ "The Deception of Dr. Mireles' Former Wife".
  3. ^ "Con audio, Mireles define a equipo de representantes". 15 August 2016.
  4. ^ "Knights Templar drug cartel: "Mexico is 10 times worse than when I was locked up:" Mireles | International | EL PAÍS English Edition". 26 May 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Mireles, el alzado líder de las autodefensas en Michoacán". Archived from the original on 20 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Mexico ex 'self-defense' vigilante leader dies of COVID-19". AP NEWS. 26 November 2020. Retrieved 26 November 2020.
  7. ^ "Video: Intentan denostarme, como si yo fuera un político.- Mireles". Aristegui Noticias. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  8. ^ Nombre *. "Que siempre no | La Jornada Michoacán". Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  9. ^ "Mireles, líder de autodefensas, estuvo preso por narcotráfico" (in Spanish). excelsior. 17 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  10. ^ "Mexico Anti-Cartel Vigilante Leader Jose Manuel Mireles Arrested in Michoacan". July 2014.
  11. ^ "¿Quién es Manuel Mireles, líder de la autodefensa en Michoacán? | Red Política – El Universal". Archived from the original on 26 February 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  12. ^ Gallegos, Raul (16 January 2014). "Who's Worse: Mexico's Drug Lords or Its Vigilantes?". Bloomberg. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  13. ^ "Los Estados – Investigarán Michoacán y PGR accidente de líder de autodefensa". El Universal. 5 January 2014. Archived from the original on 8 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  14. ^ "2 videos de Mireles dividen a autodefensas en Michoacán". Aristegui Noticias. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  15. ^ Aguiar, Rodrigo (20 January 2014). "Autoridades consignan a líder 'templario' señalado por autodefensas". CNNMéxico (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 18 March 2015. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  16. ^ "Documento: Mensaje que el gobierno le pidió leer a Mireles, entregado a MVS". Aristegui Noticias. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  17. ^ "Gobierno federal me hizo leer un mensaje, y en la TV fue distorsionado: Mireles". Aristegui Noticias. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  18. ^ ""No forzamos declaración de Mireles" para la TV: Osor io Chong". Aristegui Noticias. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  19. ^ "Confirman destitución de Mireles como vocero de las autodefensas en Michoacán - Noticaribe". 8 May 2014.
  20. ^ "| Aristegui Noticias".
  21. ^ "Proceso - Portal de Noticias".
  22. ^ "Detienen a Mireles en Lázaro Cárdenas" (in Spanish). Milenio. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  23. ^ "Pide Mireles un dictamen más justo sobre su caso" [Calls for a fairer Mireles opinion about your case]. Quadratin (in Spanish). 12 September 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  24. ^ "Once defiant Mireles offers an apology". Mexico News Daily. 11 January 2016. Archived from the original on 2 June 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  25. ^ "Libre el ex líder de autodefensas José Manuel Mireles". Vértigo Político (in Spanish). 11 May 2017. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  26. ^ "Abandona Mireles penal federal de Nayarit, tras pagar fianza de 30 mil pesos". Jorge Castro (in Spanish). 12 May 2017. Archived from the original on 16 July 2017. Retrieved 16 May 2017.