A clash between community landowners and state police left an unofficial tally of four dead, eight injured and some 40 individuals under arrest yesterday in Michoacán.
According to the state Public Security Secretariat (SSP), the violent confrontation erupted when police attempted to retrieve 20 stolen vehicles in Arantepacua, a town in the municipality of Nahuatzen.
The vehicles were hijacked the day before during a series of protests in which the comuneros of Arantepacua demanded the intervention of the state in a decades-old territorial conflict.
The SSP said that as its officers entered the town they were greeted by gunfire but later managed to secure 15 firearms and arrest at least 38 people.
But the community landowners say it was the police who shot first and that three of their number had been killed in the confrontation. A fourth individual died later after being admitted to hospital, they said.
Officially, one of the local residents was injured along with seven police officers, three of them seriously.
Authorities have not been able to confirm the deaths reported by the landowners because the latter have prevented personnel from the state Attorney General’s office from entering Arantepacua to assess the situation.
In a prepared statement, the state government said the deployment of state police will continue until order in Nahuatzen is reestablished and the hijacked vehicles are retrieved.
Human rights ombudsman Víctor Manuel Serrato Lozano issued a press release to announce an investigation into the incident.
Arantepacua is an indigenous community situated at the entrance to the Meseta Purépecha, or the Purépecha Plateau.