A group of people displaced from Jerez, Zacatecas, due to violence protested outside the National Palace on Thursday to demand federal government intervention that will allow them to return home.
Municipal authorities said in late February that more than 10,000 residents of 18 communities in Jerez had been displaced due to a turf war between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel.
A former resident of the small town of Palmas Altas told Televisa News that he and other displaced people traveled to Mexico City to ask for help from the federal government. Benjamín Carrillo said that it’s too dangerous for residents to return home without a permanent deployment of government security forces.
“It’s very dangerous, you can’t walk around in the communities,” he said.
“We’re asking our president for help, for him to approve the entry of soldiers into the mountains where we live,” said another of the displaced persons who wasn’t identified for security reasons.
Before the mass exodus from Jerez, a significant number of residents were abducted and never seen again. The bodies of some were found in government morgues, another protester told the newspaper Milenio.
“We have a lot of missing people, [it started] more than a year ago,” he said. “We support President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and that’s why we came because we have faith in him and that he will help us, offer security, put military bases, or something in the communities.”
The residents, who say state authorities have done nothing to help them, hoped to personally put their plea to the president, but were unable to secure a meeting.
At a press conference later on Thursday, residents said that their inability to return to their homes placed their peach harvest at risk and meant they can’t plant other crops at the correct time.
They also said that their homes have been looted and that their tractors and pickup trucks have been stolen, although some displaced people, accompanied by security forces, returned to their homes last month to collect the possessions they left behind when they escaped in haste early last year.
Zacatecas Governor David Monreal said earlier this month that he didn’t know when displaced Jerez residents would be able to go home.
“I wish I had the answer, not even [Barack] Obama has it,” he said, using a phrase popularized by López Obrador when the former U.S. president was in office.
“It’s a very tricky issue. If there was a specialist in the world, a wizard, a fortune-teller who could tell us, … we would have already hired him,” he said.
Carrillo, the former Palmas Altas resident, chastised Monreal for his declaration. “The governor told us that not even Obama knows … [when we can go home], it angers us; how is it possible for a leader to make these kinds of remarks?”