Illegal cockfights are flourishing in the northern border state of Chihuahua, according to the local branch of a national gamecock breeders’ association.
There are more than 50 palenques, or cockpits, where clandestine events take place in the state capital alone, local association member Rogelio Carrete said.
The breeders’ union said that most of the state’s underground cockfights are held in homes or on farms in the municipalities of Ciudad Juárez, Jiménez and Chihuahua as well as in the El Fresno region.
Cockfighting is not illegal in the state but permission must be obtained from the federal Interior Secretariat in order to stage a legal event.
The high number of unlawful cockfights in the state has attracted increased scrutiny this week following a violent attack that occurred during a clandestine event last weekend.
The Santa María club, one of three legal cockfight clubs in the state capital, held a competition last Saturday night but failed to apply for the relevant authorization.
Shortly after midnight, masked gunmen stormed into the arena and killed six people and wounded 14 more, the state Attorney General’s office said. Among the wounded were two children aged seven and 10.
Two of the victims were allegedly drug dealers for a criminal group linked to the Sinaloa Cartel and investigators suspect that the perpetrators of the attack were members of the rival Juárez cartel. However, there have been no arrests.
Carrete told the newspaper Milenio that when clandestine cockfights are held there is little control over who can attend and the owners of gamecocks as well as attendees can come and go as they please.
In contrast, at legal events everyone has to stay inside the venue until all the fights have finished, Carrete said.
The monetary stakes can be high as well, with single bets sometimes reaching into the tens of thousands of dollars.
“I won US $50,000 in a derby in Ciudad Juárez,” Carrete said.
However, he added “we’re honest, hardworking people. Those who are truly passionate [about cockfighting] don’t do it to make money.”
In recent years, state authorities have detected several clandestine venues and arrested scores of people involved in underground cockfighting.
In response to the latest attack, the Chihuahua government announced today that it will undertake a statewide operation to detect and shut down clandestine cockfighting rings.