Monday, June 17, 2024

Clash between farmers and alleged cartel members leaves 14 dead

A confrontation on Friday between residents of a municipality in southwestern México state and alleged members of a criminal group left 14 people dead and seven injured, authorities said.

The extortion-related clash between farmers and suspected members of the La Familia Michoacana criminal organization occurred on a soccer field in Texcapilla, a small community in Texcaltitlán, a municipality around 130 kilometers southwest of Mexico City.

The bodies of the 10 slain alleged cartel members were set on fire by the locals. (Crisanta Espinosa Aguilar/Cuartoscuro)

In footage posted to social media, gunshots can be heard ringing out as farmers and other locals, many wearing cowboy hats, attack suspected criminals with weapons such as sickles and machetes.

The confrontation reportedly occurred after members of La Familia Michoacana – a notoriously violent cartel – attempted to raise the payments they were demanding from farmers and business owners in exchange for allowing them to operate unimpeded.

México state officials told a press conference on Saturday that 10 of the dead were presumed members of the criminal gang, while four were residents of Texcaltitlán. The bodies of the alleged criminals were apparently set on fire.

Five locals and two suspected gangsters were injured during the clash. The state Security Ministry said in a statement on Friday that two people involved in the conflict were missing.

Law enforcement in México state said they are committed to improving security, while President López Obrador announced the deployment of additional federal law enforcement to the region as well. (Crisanta Espinosa Aguilar/Cuartoscuro)

Attorney General José Luis Cervantes said that three “priority objectives” of law enforcement authorities were among the deceased.

One of those killed was Rigoberto de la Sancha Santillán, a La Familia Michoacana leader known as “El Payaso” (The Clown). De la Sancha allegedly participated in a 2021 ambush that killed 13 police officers in Coatepec Harinas, a México state municipality that borders Texcaltitlán.

He was the target of a 2022 police operation during which at least 10 presumed La Michoacan members were killed in Texcaltitlán.

México state Governor Delfina Gómez said that she “deeply” regretted the violence on Friday, before declaring:

“These events do not paralyze us. On the contrary, they reaffirm our commitment to improve the security conditions in our beloved state. Rest assured that we will continue working so that episodes like this aren’t repeated. To the [residents of the] south of México state I say, you are not alone, we are with you.”

Extortion is a common – and growing – problem in Mexico, affecting both urban and rural areas of the country. Criminal groups target a wide range of economic sectors including agriculture (avocados, limes, etc.), mining, retail (tortilla shops, markets, etc.) and public transport.

Sandra Ley, a program coordinator for the think tank México Evalúa, told The New York Times that communities sometimes fight back against criminal organizations that are constantly harassing them out of “desperation.”

“The communities do this from a place of feeling fed up, of desperation, from that position of ‘no more,'” she said.

Victims of extortion often say that authorities have done little to combat the problem.

Falko Ernst, senior Mexico analyst for International Crisis Group, told The Times that extortion has become increasingly common here as crime groups “have been morphing away from drug trafficking towards a territorially based extraction model.”

On Monday, President López Obrador described the clash on Friday as “very regrettable” and noted that an investigation is underway. He also said that federal security forces have been deployed to Texcaltitlán, explaining that around 600 soldiers and National Guard Officers were sent to the municipality.

With reports from El País, Reforma, El Financiero, AP and Aristegui Noticias 


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