Destruction caused by gang warfare in the Chihuahua mountains. Destruction caused by gang violence in the Chihuahua mountains.

Gang warfare closes hospital, health clinics

Facilities close in five Chihuahua municipalities as gangs fight a turf war

A bloody turf war in the mountain region surrounding Gómez Farías, Chihuahua, has forced the closure of more than a dozen medical clinics in five municipalities as well as the area’s main hospital.

Violence has spiked in recent weeks as two rival criminal gangs fight for control and after a particularly harrowing confrontation last Wednesday, the medical facilities made the decision to close out of fear.

The 15 clinics are located in the municipalities of Ignacio Zaragoza, Namiquipa, Madera, Bachíniva and Gómez Farías, where the community hospital also closed.

The Chihuahua Health Secretariat responded by announcing that it will send mobile medical units under state security protection to the affected communities “in the coming days.”

In the early hours of November 8, the opposing groups exchanged gunfire in an undisclosed location in Gómez Farías. One of the gangs then set two vehicles on fire before proceeding to the town center of the municipal seat.

Once there, four homes identified by state authorities as safe houses were also set on fire before hooded and armed men broke into three others and abducted several local residents.

One of the kidnapping victims was Dr. Blas Juan Godínez Loya, the director of the Gómez Farías Community Hospital.

Godínez’s son Juan, who is also a doctor, is certain that the abduction was specifically targeted at his father so that he could treat gang members who were wounded in the shootout.

“Around 3:45 in the morning, a group of armed individuals came to the house, surrounded it and started breaking windows so they could enter. When they managed to get in, they asked for Dr. Godínez,” he said, adding that his mother had witnessed everything.

According to both the kidnapping victim’s son and other local residents, the practice of abducting doctors has become increasingly common.

The fact that nobody has contacted the family to request a ransom payment could be considered a good sign because in past cases the gangs have returned the doctors they abducted once their services were no longer required. Godínez’s family is clinging to the hope that history will be repeated.

A state prosecutor who works in the region said that no doctors have reported any such incidents to authorities and consequently no additional security arrangements had been made for their protection, although state Governor Javier Corral has proposed the idea.

Gómez Farías

“Unfortunately, the doctors who may have lived through this situation have not made the corresponding report therefore the incidents have not been known and it’s impossible to offer any security measure to them,” Juan Manuel Carrasco said.

He added that the state government had begun a new security operation in the region but for some residents the response comes too late.

The violence between the gangs — one from Chihuahua and the other from the neighboring state of Sonora — has already turned some communities in the region into ghost towns, with residents either fleeing or remaining inside their homes especially after sundown when a self-imposed curfew comes into force.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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