Gunshots rang out once again in Aguililla, Michoacán, on Friday as a bloody turf war between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Cárteles Unidos continued.
In videos posted to social media, volleys of gunfire can be heard during confrontations in Aguililla, the main town in the Tierra Caliente municipality of the same name.
The latest battle between the rival cartels came after the CJNG killed and decapitated at least eight presumed Cárteles Unidos members last week.
As many as 27 members of the Cárteles Unidos may have been killed by the CJNG, according to the Citizens’ Intelligence Unit Twitter account and media reports.
Gilberto Vergara, a parish priest, said in a video message that gun shots were a constant in the municipal seat on Friday. It is unclear whether there were any deaths or injuries as no authorities have officially acknowledged the confrontations.
Vergara said the CJNG is currently patrolling the streets of the city, which has been cut off from the outside world due to blockades set up by both the Jalisco cartel and the army, and trenches dug across roads by residents to thwart criminal incursions.
He said the CJNG has recruited people from outside the municipality to form a human shield that has been established outside the army’s Aguililla base to stop it from carrying out operations – and it is apparently working.
The priest claimed that the army has done nothing to stop the violence between the rival criminal groups. He said a military helicopter arrived on Friday but only to drop off supplies to soldiers.
Vergara claimed that the state government has sought to minimize the violence, even though residents no longer leave their homes due to fear that they could get caught caught up in a gun battle or even become a target themselves.
Although the municipality has been effectively isolated, it has not yet run out of basic supplies, the priest said, but the price of basic goods has gone up.
A local woman who spoke to the newspaper El Universal said that all residents are fed up with the ongoing violence. She implored authorities to do something to bring it to an end and open up access so that food and medications are both available and not sold at exorbitant prices.
“… We hope that this ends before we’re forced to do something we don’t want to do, which is to take up arms,” said the woman, who spoke to El Universal on the condition of anonymity.
Violence has long plagued Aguililla, the municipality where CJNG leader Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes – a wanted man in both Mexico and the United States – was born, but has intensified in recent weeks.
Some media reports have linked the most recent violence, including last weeks’ massacre, to the March 30 arrest in Guatemala of former Aguililla mayor Adalberto Fructuoso Comparán Rodríguez.
The CJNG, widely considered Mexico’s most powerful and violent criminal organization, has been fighting to win control of Aguililla for months if not years, and according to some media reports has succeeded in seizing the municipality, located about 270 kilometers southwest of the state capital Morelia.
At the start of last month, a video surfaced on social media in which CJNG members, acting with impunity on the streets of a small Aguililla town, show off an armored “narco-tank” that was apparently seized from Los Viagras, another rival criminal group.
In addition to clashing with its criminal enemies, the CJNG has attacked government security forces including state police, 14 of whom were killed in an ambush in Aguililla in October 2019.