In an attempt to prevent Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) hitmen from entering their communities and attacking them, residents of two municipalities in western Michoacán have taken defensive measures by digging trenches across highways.
Residents of Coalcóman and Tepalcatepec, neighboring municipalities that border Jalisco, cut road access at La Limonera and La Pinolapa, the newspaper Milenio reported.
Dug with heavy machinery, the trenches prevent vehicles from traveling through the two municipalities to Jalisco and the Michoacán coast.
According to residents, CJNG gunmen have entered several communities in armored vehicles over the past week and launched attacks directed at their adversaries, among which is a group known as Carteles Unidos.
Residents say that the CJNG – usually considered Mexico’s most powerful and dangerous criminal organization – has taken control of several communities in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán.
The decision to dig the trenches came after members of a CJNG cell set fire to 11 vehicles last weekend in the Coalcóman community of Puerto de las Cruces, apparently to stop the entry of security forces from Jalisco after a cartel ambush.
Residents say the CJNG has been bringing weapons and people into Michoacán via Puerto de las Cruces, which adjoins the Jalisco municipality of Pihuamo.
The weapons and cartel personnel are taken through Coalcóman to a community in the municipality of Aguililla where the CJNG has a base, according to residents.
Aguililla was the scene of a cartel ambush just over a year ago that left 14 state police officers dead. The attack is believed to have been perpetrated by the CJNG.
Community authorities told the newspaper El Universal that the cartel was also responsible for an ambush last Friday that wounded three state police. The attack occurred on the Tepalcatepec-Coalcomán highway near the community of Los Aguacates.
As a result of the recent cartel violence in the region, about 200 families decided to abandon their homes and seek refuge in safer locations. Some are reportedly planning to leave Michoacán to travel to the northern border and seek asylum in the United States.
Some teenagers have fled their towns out of fear that the CJNG will attempt to recruit them forcibly, El Universal reported.
Authorities have identified a man nicknamed “El Negrito” as well as Miguel Fernández, aka “El M2,” as the main instigators of the violence in western Michoacán municipalities on or near the Jalisco border. El Negrito is believed to be the leader of a CJNG cell while Fernández is the suspected plaza chief in Aguililla.
El Universal reported that there is video footage of the former executing presumed members of rival groups in cold blood. The newspaper also said that there is footage of CJNG members setting residents on fire as a form of torture to obtain information from them about rival criminal groups.
Formed about a decade ago, the Jalisco cartel is led by Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes, Mexico’s most wanted drug lord. It is notorious for violence and making videos that show off its significant firepower.
Oseguera hails from a town in Aguililla, and violence in and around the municipality last year was reportedly linked to his desire to move home.