A former self-defense force leader has criticized the federal government’s security strategy in the wake of a cartel ambush in Michoacán that left 14 police officers dead, claiming that it is allowing criminal groups to operate with impunity in the state.
“As I said months ago, the cartels continue to drive by with caravans of armed people,” said Hipólito Mora, founder of a self-defense force that took up arms against the Caballeros Templarios cartel and other criminal groups in 2013.
“It gives the impression that the authorities are in agreement [with them] . . . The unfortunate thing is that a lot of people are dying. The government people say that . . . all is well but what we see is pure violence . . .” he added.
Mora said that the attack allegedly committed by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) on state police in the municipality of Aguililla on Monday could be heard from his home town of La Ruana, located in the neighboring municipality of Buenavista.
“The gunshots or grenade fire in Aguililla was heard here in La Ruana, it’s incredible . . . The people who were at the farm told me that they heard a lot of shots . . .” he said.
“This attack happened in Aguililla but at any time it could happen here, and it already has happened [before]. People live in fear . . . sometimes there are people who are not involved with cartels but they die,” Mora said.
The 63-year-old, who announced in July that he was taking up arms again because governments have failed to provide security, renewed his attack on authorities in a radio interview.
“. . . The [federal] government is making a mistake by prioritizing other things, [combating] insecurity must be first, everything else is secondary,” Mora said.
“They don’t want to fight violence with violence but if they let them [the criminal groups] thrive there will be more deaths than if they fought them,” he added.
Mora urged the government to change its strategy, warning that if it fails to do so, a lot more families will be affected.
“What we’re asking of authorities is to make an effort, forget about [political] campaigns, votes . . . The main problem we have in Mexico is violence and while there is no security, no one is going to work at ease. They should do their work, that’s what they’re paid for,” he said.
The possibility of the government changing tack and adopting a more confrontational approach to combating violence appears unlikely.
President López Obrador told a peace summit in Mérida, Yucatán, last month that his government is determined to achieve peace in Mexico without resorting to authoritarianism or the use of force.
Before yesterday’s attack, he told reporters at his regular news conference that “you can’t fight fire with fire.
“I’ve said it many times. You can’t fight violence with violence, you can’t fight evil with evil. You have to fight evil by doing good.”
The president argues that the best way to combat crime and violence is to address the root causes of poverty so that people have viable alternatives to a life of crime.
The implementation of welfare and employment programs has been a priority for the government but high levels of violence persist.
Michoacán has been one of the most violent states in the country in 2019, recording 1,192 homicides in the first eight months of the year.
According to Ricardo Ravelo, a journalist who writes about drug trafficking and violence, four criminal organizations are vying for control in the state: the CJNG, Los Viagras, Los Valencia, and the Caballeros Templarios /La Familia Michoacana.