Burning tires block a road in Totolapan. Burning tires block a road in Totolapan.

Armed forces repelled in Tierra Caliente

Blockades, armed aggression greet security forces in San Miguel Totolapan

A gunfight between criminal gangs in the Tierra Caliente region of Guerrero left eight people dead on Thursday, but when security forces tried yesterday to enter the town of La Gavia to assess the situation they were violently repelled by residents.

In the end, the deployment of over 400 soldiers and police succeeded in taking control of the municipality of San Miguel Totolapan, a longtime base for the Tequileros criminal gang.

But in the process 16 public and privately-owned vehicles were incinerated, 14 highway blockades were mounted in nine municipalities and federal and state forces had to repel armed aggression.

However, Governor Héctor Astudillo Flores said today that although most of the blockades were removed yesterday and today, three or four still remained in place.

Many of the blockades were erected by the self-defense militia group Movimiento por La Paz y la Justicia (Movement for Peace and Justice), which at one point prevented the forces from crossing a bridge and entering the town of San Miguel Totolapan.

They insisted that soldiers and police could only enter without riot gear and their vehicles.

As the state and federal forces advanced over the bridge one group of local citizens set fire to a string of tires laid across it, temporarily stopping their progress.

While a group of youths with their faces masked threw Molotov cocktails at the advancing army, a second group of people from San Miguel helped put out the fire.

Stones were then thrown at the armed forces, who shot tear gas canisters in response.

While all this was happening on the bridge, members of a self-defense group from the neighboring municipality of Ajuchitlán del Progreso tried to seize two armed forces helicopters, sparking a second confrontation that culminated with the arrest of 10 individuals.

The San Miguel confrontation lasted two hours, after which the military and state police took control of the municipality.

Twenty-two people were arrested during the fracas, but 20 of them were later released for lack of evidence against them.

In Thursday’s gun battle, three of the eight casualties belonged to the Tequileros. The other five are believed to have been members the rival gang Familia Michoacana. Their bodies were incinerated during the confrontation.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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