By ARMANDO SOLÍS
NUEVO URECHO, Mexico (AP) — Extortion of avocado growers in western Mexico has gotten so bad that 500 vigilantes from a so-called “self-defense” group known as United Towns, or Pueblos Unidos, have gathered and pledged to aid police. The vigilantes were armed with AR-15s and other rifles, as well as a motley collection of shotguns. They said that drug cartels like the Viagras and the Jalisco cartel have been charging avocado growers ‘war taxes’ of about $1,000 per acre ($2,500 per hectare). Tired of the extortion demands and kidnappings, growers and farmers formed the group earlier this year, and it now claims to have almost 3,000 members.