The army has retaken control of a part of Michoacán that was under the sway of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) for more than four months.
CJNG gunmen occupied the highway between Tepalcatepec and Coalcomán for four months and 20 days, according to a report by the newspaper Milenio.
Some 150 families from approximately 20 communities fled their homes due to the presence of the cartel and the risk they could get caught in the crossfire of its gun battles with self-defense forces and official security forces.
But the displaced people were able to return home last week after the highway was “liberated” by the army last Monday, Milenio said.
Their houses were not as they left them. Many now have bullet holes in their facades and some lost their roofs because explosives transported by drones were dropped on them. The returnees are now fearful that the army will leave the area and the CJNG sicarios will return.
“The question we all ask ourselves is, what will happen … when they go? Everything will be the same as before,” one person told Milenio.
For now, however, life is returning to some semblance of normal in Tepalcatepec and Coalcomán, neighboring municipalities that both border Jalisco.
In addition to taking back control of the Tepalcatepec-Coalcomán highway, located in Michoacán’s notoriously violent Tierra Caliente region, federal authorities repaired 15 trenches on the highway that were dug by the CJNG with heavy machinery.
Traffic is now flowing, allowing essential goods to reach communities that were previously cut off.
After the army’s liberation mission last week, additional CJNG members were reportedly deployed to the state.
“In a video found on a cell phone that was seized from a CJNG member by self-defense force members, a significant number of armed men with their faces covered are seen marching … while they shout: ‘We’re all people of Señor Mencho,’” Milenio said.
Mencho is Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, the leader of the CJNG and a wanted man in Mexico and the United States.
Milenio said that the additional contingent of “Mencho’s people” were in a community near Michoacán’s border with Colima, adding that self-defense forces in Tierra Caliente were on high alert.
The army’s arrival in the area last week came just days after the publication of a video that showed explosives being dropped on an encampment of displaced people in Tepalcatepec. The footage was filmed by a drone from which the explosives were believed dropped by members of the CJNG.
With reports from Milenio