The mayor of Tepalcatepec, Michoacán, where nine presumed hitmen of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) were killed in clashes on Friday, has accused state and federal authorities of leaving the municipality to fend for itself.
In an interview with the newspaper El Universal, Felipe Martínez Pérez called on the Michoacán and federal governments to send police and the armed forces to Tepalcatepec to reinforce security and prevent another incursion by the cartel.
He said that both residents and local authorities have already asked for assistance but the municipality has received no support. Asked about current security conditions, the mayor responded that the community is on high alert.
“Yesterday [Sunday], at about 10 at night, the red alert was activated again because armed groups were sighted in [the Tepalcatepec community of] Tepalcuatita. That put all of us on alert and fireworks were set off to warn residents . . . to go home . . .” Martínez said.
The mayor said the reaction of residents was one of fear, adding that although armed groups say they don’t target the general public “the first thing they do is attack the people.”
Two jornaleros, or day laborers, were also killed in the confrontations on Friday that reportedly occurred between CJNG operatives and municipal police.
“We’re asking for the presence of the army, for them to support us with a military operations base in [the neighboring municipality of] Jilotlán, [Jalisco] . . . in Cholula and another in La Estanzuela, which are the weak points we have, where armed groups can enter,” Martínez said.
“They’ve left us on our own,” the mayor responded when asked whether state and federal authorities have provided any support.
“It’s concerning for all of society because seeing the events [of Friday] and things as they are, as well as not having a response from authorities, is highly alarming . . .” Martínez added.
“. . . No authority has come and we’re worried. What’s going on with the state and federal governments for them to not turn their eyes to Tepalcatepec and see what’s happening?” he asked.
“. . . We have a situation of latent risk and at any moment [violence] could break out again. Don’t abandon us, be aware of the situation . . . The armed forces need to come and stay for a period of time, the time that’s necessary to protect the citizens . . .”
In a separate interview with Grupo Fórmula, Martínez denied that there is a criminal group based in Tepalcatepec that is engaged in a turf war with the CJNG.
On August 13, a video circulated on social media showing 18 masked men who identified themselves as CJNG hitmen and threatened to attack territory held by former ally Juan José “El Abuelo” Farías Álvarez in Tepalcatepec.
Farías, a former self-defense force leader who is now alleged to be a leader of bitter CJNG rival Los Viagras, is a businessman engaged in the buying and selling of cattle, Martínez said.
“. . . Farías doesn’t lead any criminal cell, it’s false what they [state authorities] are saying,” he said.
The mayor claimed that the ignorance of the Michoacán government with regard to the security situation had led to an assertion by Governor Silvano Aureoles that Friday’s clashes were between two cartels rather than the CJNG and local police who were previously self-defense force members.
Aureoles told a press conference on Monday that it is organized crime that operates and governs in the municipality by deciding who will be mayor.
But the latter denied the charge.
“Here there are no cartels but the state government is stubborn [in saying] that there is a cartel here. We’re under attack, we’re not criminals, we’re defending ourselves from the aggression of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel – the state government and the federal government don’t understand that,” he said.
However, it is questionable that a municipal police force would have the firepower to defeat the CJNG in an armed confrontation.
The cartel is considered the most powerful and dangerous in the country, and has published scores of videos in which its members appear wielding high-caliber weapons.
A more plausible explanation would be that Friday’s clashes were between the CJNG and Los Viagras, described by Governor Aureoles in 2017 as “the most bloodthirsty and dangerous” criminal group operating in Michoacán.
The newspaper Infobae reported that state police from Jalisco and Michoacán and municipal police from Tepacaltepec were patrolling the border between the two states. The CJNG hitmen who allegedly launched Friday’s attack were reported to have crossed into Michoacán from Jalisco.