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Vehicles burn in blockades on a Guanajuato highway. Vehicles burn in blockades on a Guanajuato highway.

Responding to crackdown, criminal gangs blockade 11 highways in Guanajuato

Two bus lines canceled services between Querétaro and several cities

Joint state-federal security operations in Guanajuato on Tuesday triggered a violent response from criminal groups, which set vehicles on fire to block 11 highways in seven municipalities.

The police operations took place in the Laja-Bajío region of Guanajuato, where the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, a fuel theft and extortion gang led by José Antonio “El Marro” Yépez Ortiz, has a strong presence.

Set up after 2:00 p.m. Tuesday on the Villagrán-Jueventino Rosas, Celaya-Comonfort, Salamanca-Querétaro and Salamanca-Celaya highways, among others, the blockades caused traffic chaos and triggered panic among residents of Guanajuato, Mexico’s most violent state in 2019.

Two police officers and two nurses were wounded in a clash with criminals on the Acámbaro-Salvatierra highway, the newspaper Milenio reported.

The hostile response to the police operations particularly affected Celaya, where four of the 11 fiery blockades were set up. The other municipalities that saw blockades were Salamanca, Juventino Rosas, Salvatierra, Comonfort, Apaseo el Alto and Villagrán, where the town of Santa Rosa de Lima is located.

The blockades triggered traffic chaos and panic.
The blockades triggered traffic chaos and panic.

Due to fear that their vehicles could be commandeered and set aflame, the ETN and Primera Plus bus lines canceled services scheduled to run late yesterday afternoon between Querétaro and several cities including Guadalajara, Salamanca, Irapuato, León, Morelia and Celaya.

As rumors swirled that the violent response from organized crime might have come in response to the arrest of Yépez, one of Mexico’s most wanted men, Guanajuato Government Secretary Luis Ernesto Ayala Torres announced that wasn’t the case.

The hostilities on Tuesday came after armed men attacked a municipal police surveillance booth in Celaya on Monday night, wounding one officer. Over the weekend, an explosive device detonated in a car left near National Guard facilities in the same municipality, Milenio reported.

The wave of violence came after the father of El Marro, Rodolfo N., was arrested in Celaya last Thursday. He remains in preventative custody as he awaits trial on vehicle theft charges.

Federal Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo described the arrest of the criminal leader’s father as “notable” and said that security forces would be ready for any violent reaction to the detention.

At least eight people close to Yépez have been arrested recently, including his wife Karina Mora, although she was later released after a judge ruled that police had entered the house where she was detained without a search warrant.

El Marro’s niece, Denise Yépez Pérez, was arrested on weapons charges in Apaseo el Alto, Guanajuato, in February, while his sister and her husband-to-be were murdered in January during their wedding ceremony at a church in the Guanajuato community of Pelavacas.

Yépez, however, remains at large although authorities have said on repeated occasions that his arrest is only a matter of time.

The Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel he heads is engaged in a bloody turf war in Guanajuato with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, considered Mexico’s most powerful criminal organization.

The dispute between the two groups is the main generator of violence in the state, where there were more than 3,500 homicide victims last year.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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