Followers of 'El Chanda' burn tires on a highway after his arrest on Sunday. Followers of 'El Chanda' burn tires on a highway after his arrest on Sunday.

Governor hails arrest of crime gang’s 2IC

But self-defense group founder describes Mexico as 'a cemetery,' blames politicians

The second in command of the criminal gang known as Los H3 was captured on the weekend in Cuatro Caminos, Michoacán, triggering praise from the governor but retaliation by his followers.

Gilberto Gómez Romero, alias “El Chanda” and “El Señor de Úspero,” was one of the state’s most-wanted until reports of gunfire in the community triggered a joint security operation Sunday by federal and state forces.

Gómez was discovered inside a local restaurant and taken into custody without resistance.

But about 100 supporters reacted by mounting a blockade on the Apatzingán-Nueva Italia highway, parking buses across the roadway and burning tires to stop traffic.

The newspaper Reforma reported they were from the community of Úspero, located in Parácuaro, one of three municipalities in which Gómez is believed to have been the chief of plaza. The others are Apatzingán and Buenavista.

Michoacán Governor Silvano Aureoles Conejo yesterday called the operation that captured the gang boss as an example of the effort being made by the state’s police force to deliver security to its citizens.

He said the state will not be held hostage by special-interest groups or criminal gangs.

Not nearly as upbeat was a founder of one of the self-defense groups that sprouted in Michoacán four years ago in response to repression by the powerful Caballeros Templarios.

The cartel might be history but the object of Hipólito Mora’s ire was politicians rather than criminals.

He declared on Sunday that Mexico is “a disaster” and the entire country is “a cemetery” because its politicians are preoccupied only with “power, elections and committing robbery.”

The founder and ex-leader of a self-defense force in La Ruana in the municipality of Buenavista was commenting on Saturday’s assassination of Francisco Javier Palafox Covarrubias, head of the Apatzingán Technological Institute.

In an interview with the newspaper El Universal, he charged that one more family has been destroyed thanks to corruption, incompetence and indifference on the part of government at all levels, declaring that the well-being of Mexicans is what matters least to the country’s politicians.

Mora cited government inaction in various massacres. Among them: one in Apatzingán in 2014, the 43 Ayotzinapa students the same year and another later that year in Ruana, in which Mora’s own son was killed.

At the time Mora accused another former self-defense leader of being responsible. He had previously accused Luis Antonio Torres, known as “El Americano,” for behing in cahoots with the Caballeros Templarios.

Today, Torres is believed to be the boss of Los H3, described in one report as the fourth generation of Michoacán crime gangs, after La Empresa, La Familia Michoacana and Los Caballeros Templarios.

The gang gained ascendancy during 2014 when Alfredo Castillo Cervantes served as a special security commissioner, appointed by President Enrique Peña Nieto to clean up the mess that was Michoacán: unregulated, unofficial yet well armed community self-defense groups defending themselves against the Caballeros.

But while Castillo was dismantling that gang, H3 was building, pulling its members from the Caballeros, the old Familia Michoacana, deserters from the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación and — which Mora and others charged at the time — members of the self-defense groups themselves.

Castillo, now in charge of the country’s national sports program, has been blamed for H3’s birth.

Mora said it was time Castillo was called to account for what happened in Michoacán and be require to pay for the crimes for which he is responsible.

Meanwhile, Palafox was the second director of a post-secondary institution to be assassinated in less than a week. The head of the Conalep, a professional technical college, was executed last Tuesday inside his school.

Both men had been planning on running for public office, said friends and family.

Source: El Universal (sp), Reforma (sp), Noventa Grados (sp)

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