Residents of three communities in the municipality of Chilapa de Álvarez, Guerrero, have been forced to leave their homes due to death threats from criminal gangs.
People began abandoning the village of Ahuihuiyuco in early 2015 after a criminal group started to hunt down family members of ex-municipal police chief Silvestre Carreto González who they believed had links to Los Rojos, a faction of the Gulf Cartel.
Since then, seven of his relatives have been killed, four are missing and many more are displaced.
The exodus has now extended to the nearby communities of Tepozcuatla and Tetitlán de la Lima.
Tensions escalated further this week when, according to various sources, armed men arrived to the three communities on Tuesday and offered an ultimatum to the remaining populace: “If you’re not gone by Friday, we’ll kill you.”
When José Diaz Navarro, spokesperson for the organization Siempre Vivos, which represents the families of missing persons, and Manuel Olivares Hernández, director of a human rights defense center, visited the towns yesterday they found them virtually deserted.
Health care centers and schools were closed with only the churches in the three villages remaining open. The majority of the houses had been abandoned but animals, domestic appliances and farming equipment was left behind.
Diaz Navarro reported seeing only one family in Ahuihuiyuco: they were picking up their corn harvest before leaving again.
The few who have chosen to remain have requested security.
Violence against Carreto Gonzaléz’ family began in November 2014 when his son Alejo was murdered in Ahuihuiyuco. Six days later, six people were killed in Tetitlán de la Lima, five of them family members of the ex-police chief.
More violence was directed at the family when some 300 heavily-armed men took over the municipal seat of Chilapa in May 2015 and abducted three of Carreto Gonzaléz’s nephews and one of his brothers. They haven’t been seen since.
His brother, Bernardo Carreto González, who had been leading the search for his missing sons, was also murdered in December 2015 after receiving telephone threats in which he was told that his boys would be returned if he did the same with a resident of Ahuihuiyuco, suggesting that he was also involved in illegal activity.
No proof was provided that his sons were still alive.
Chilapa has been plagued by high levels of insecurity and civil unrest in recent years including a takeover of the region by a self-styled community police force in May 2015.
Source: El Universal (sp)