More than 10,000 residents of Jerez, Zacatecas, have been displaced due to a turf war between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Sinaloa Cartel, according to municipal authorities.
Jerez government secretary Marco Antonio Vargas said people have been forced from their homes in 18 communities in the municipality, located west of Zacatecas city.
Among the communities that have become virtual ghost towns are Palmas Altas, Ermita de los Correa, Sarabia and Parral de las Huertas.
Most of the displaced people are now living in the homes of friends or relatives in the town of Jerez or Zacatecas city, although some have traveled to the northern border to seek asylum in the United States.
The newspaper Milenio reported that the 33-kilometer road between Jerez and Palmas Altas is littered with spent bullet casings, remnants of battles between Mexico’s two most powerful cartels.
The facades of some of the houses in Palmas Altas are emblazoned with threatening messages from the feuding criminal organizations.
“It’s an issue that doesn’t allow us to be at ease,” Vargas said, referring to the bloody turf war that made Zacatecas Mexico’s most violent state last year in terms of homicides per capita.
“Our objective … [is] for people to be able to return to their homes and communities. We need the support of the Mexican army and National Guard,” he said.
One former Palmas Altas resident told Milenio that his father died of grief a year ago after his brother was abducted and presumably killed. He said that numerous people were kidnapped in the small town and most were never seen again. Those who did return had had their ears mutilated, he said.
The man, a farmer who wasn’t identified for security reasons, was the last Palmas Altas resident to abandon the town, Milenio said. He is now trying to start a new life in Jerez but hasn’t been able to find a job.
Homicides have increased over the past six months in Zacatecas despite additional efforts by the federal government to bring insecurity under control. The army this week moved at least 10 armored all-terrain vehicles into the state, a sign that the authorities intend to further ramp up their fight against organized crime.
With reports from Milenio