A string of murders is making it hard to buy fresh chicken at markets in Chilpancingo, Guerrero.
Eight people – seven men who worked in the poultry industry and the 12-year-old daughter of one of them – were killed last week, leading virtually all chicken stalls in the state capital’s main markets to close.
Fresh chicken distributor Tomás Ramírez was the first victim, shot dead Monday, June 6, in the Baltazar R. Leyva Mancilla central market. Chicken stall owners told the newspaper Reforma that Ramírez had only returned to Chilpancingo three days before he was murdered, after leaving the city due to threats. Armed men torched six public transit vehicles in Chilpancingo on the night of the homicide, the newspaper El Universal reported.
Another poultry industry worker was murdered at the same market last Thursday. Two gunmen killed an employee of a chicken distribution company as he was leaving the market in a delivery truck. Another man in the same truck was wounded.
A massacre occurred two days later at a poultry farm in Petaquillas, a community in the municipality of Chilpancingo. Armed men killed farm owner/chicken distributor Víctor Vega, his 12-year-old daughter and four farm employees in a brazen attack on Saturday morning. Two other employees were wounded. Reforma reported that one of the murder victims was Víctor Vázquez, half-brother of slain chicken distributor Tomás Ramírez.
Chicken stalls in Chilpancingo’s six biggest markets closed in response to the three attacks, whose motives have not been clearly established. El Universal reported that a section of the central market where more than 30 chicken stalls are located remained empty on Monday afternoon. “There are no vendors nor buyers. Hardly anyone walks through there,” it said.
Reforma reported that state police, soldiers and members of the National Guard visited the market on Saturday afternoon and took photographs of vacant chicken stalls. One vendor told the newspaper Sunday that sales have declined at all stalls since Ramírez’s murder.
One of the other Chilpancingo markets where chicken vendor stalls have been closed in recent days is the San Francisco market. An employee of a butcher shop located just outside the market said Sunday that she was selling pork and beef but not chicken because none had arrived. “We don’t know when there will be [more],” she said.
In the central market, where the only chicken available on Monday was leftover frozen stock, a vendor told El Universal that no one knows when the distribution of fresh chicken will recommence and when the stalls that sell the product will reopen. She also said that stall owners had no guarantee that they wouldn’t be targeted by criminals.
In light of the recent violence, the Guerrero government announced it would increase security in the capital, but the police presence in the central market on Monday was minimal. According to the state Attorney General’s Office, two criminal organizations – Los Ardillos and Los Tlacos – operate in Chilpancingo.
The newspaper El Sur cited an anonymous source that told them that the attacks are the result of a truce between the two criminal groups being broken by the killing of Guerrero transportation leader Francisco García Marroquín on May 31 in Chilpancingo. The source told El Sur that García was close to Los Tlacos.
However, former Chilapa-Chilpancingo diocese bishop Salvador Rangel claimed that the recent attacks against poultry industry workers were committed by a third group that is seeking to displace the other two. Rangel, who has an intimate knowledge of organized crime in Guerrero, didn’t name the organization, but asserted that authorities are aware of it.
“This will affect all of us,” one central market vendor said, referring to the recent shootings in the state capital. “People aren’t coming [to shop], they’re afraid.”