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Community guards on patrol in the Tierra Caliente. Community guards on patrol in the Tierra Caliente.

Michoacán student refused to sit by and do nothing in face of attacks

18-year-old who joined community guards in Tepalcatepec killed in Tierra Caliente attack

An 18-year-old man presumed killed by Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) gunmen in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán, earlier this month took up arms to defend his family, according to his devastated mother.

Men believed to be CJNG sicarios carried out a lengthy offensive in the Tierra Caliente municipality in the middle of September, killing seven people and wounding three others.

Five men manning a checkpoint designed to keep criminals out of the community of La Estanzuela were murdered and decapitated before two other men also working as community guards were shot dead in the locality of Plaza Vieja.

One of the victims of the latter attack was Juan José López Cervantes, who recently graduated from middle school and planned to continue his studies at a technical school.

His body and that of the other victim have not been recovered because they are in an area controlled by the CJNG, the newspaper El Universal reported.

The mother of murdered young man
The mother of murdered young man said he wished to defend his family.

López’s mother told El Universal that her son had dreams of becoming a soldier or a nurse but was unable to commence his high school studies due to the pandemic. Not wanting to sit idle as Tepalcatepec came under attack, he decided to join the community resistance to the CJNG and swapped his textbooks for a gun, said Genoveva Cervantes Cortés.

Chelito, as López was affectionately known, didn’t want to see his family murdered, Cervantes said.

According to a community guard working alongside the young man, López, described by his friends as “very brave,” was first shot in the leg and later in the head as they came under attack by CJNG gunmen. Running for their own lives, the other comunitarios were unable to remove the bodies of their slain colleagues.

Cervantes said that armed attacks have become a daily occurrence in Tepalcatepec, one of several Tierra Caliente municipalities plagued by violence perpetrated by the CJNG and its local rival, the Cárteles Unidos.

“[There is] a lot of violence. You’re at home waiting for a bullet or bomb to fall on you. You can’t sleep because you don’t know what’s going to happen to you or if they’re going to kill your child,” she said before urging authorities to recover the body of her son.

With reports from El Universal 

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