A Green Party (PVEM) candidate for governor of Michoacán has become the first person among those vying for the state’s top job to visit Aguililla, a violence-plagued municipality in the Tierra Caliente region.
Juan Antonio Magaña, a state Supreme Court judge and a former attorney general for the state, spent two hours in the municipal seat on Wednesday, where he held a campaign rally.
He is one of seven candidates contesting the June 6 election for governor. Morena party candidate Alfredo Ramírez Bedolla is currently ahead in the polls.
According to a report by the newspaper Milenio, Magaña told a woman selling aguas frescas (flavored beverages) at a gas station on the outskirts of Apatzingán that he was heading to Aguililla, where the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Cárteles Unidos are fighting each other for control.
“Do you have a bulletproof vest?” the vendor inquired. “No,” responded the candidate, “but whoever wants to be governor has to travel through Michoacán, and Aguililla is Michoacán.”
Magaña told Milenio that members of his family and campaign team tried to persuade him to reschedule his visit to the municipality because there was a gunfight there early on Wednesday. But he refused, confident that his “goodwill” would protect him.
The PVEM candidate did make it in and out safely, but he wasn’t able to completely avoid criminal activity.
On the Apatzingán-Aguililla highway — blocked for about four months by trenches, stones and vehicles before it was cleared by police last month — Magaña and his entourage, accompanied by state police, encountered a blockade in the form of a tractor-trailer that had been set alight by a criminal group.
“It angers me. It angers me as a citizen because this cannot happen in my state,” the candidate said.
When he arrived in the city, Magaña didn’t come across a bustling town but one replete with shuttered businesses, their facades scarred with bullet holes.
“… About half the town has left,” Antonio Navarrete, who attended the candidate’s rally, told Milenio, referring to the exodus of Aguililla residents due to the violence. “There are shootouts every day, … last night it was from two to three or four in the morning, and that’s the way it is every day.”
Despite the dangers, Magaña criticized his fellow candidates for not visiting Aguililla and listening to the concerns of residents.
“Aguililla is also Michoacán, and those of us who aspire to govern the state must travel through all its territory,” he said.
Doing just that after leaving the troubled town, Magaña encountered another blockade near the community of El Terrero. It consisted of a group of some 200 people protesting against the National Guard and state police, whom they accused of allowing organized crime to operate in the Tierra Caliente region.
The PVEM candidate remained in his vehicle despite calls for him to join the protest. The disgruntled residents eventually allowed his car and others to pass.
Some 200 state police are currently deployed to the Tierra Caliente region as part of a Michoacán government operation to combat organized crime. But criminal groups are still in control, Milenio reported, and acts of violence remain a common occurrence.
Source: Milenio (sp)