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Citizens lob firecrackers and stones at the army's helicopter landing pad in Aguililla. Citizens lob firecrackers and stones at the army's helicopter landing pad in Aguililla.

Aguililla residents angry as they suffer from blockades while soldiers unaffected

Helicopters keep the army supplied while citizens go without in the beseiged Michoacán city

Fed up with being unable to buy basic goods because access to their city has been cut off by criminal organizations, residents of Aguililla, Michoacán, banded together on Wednesday to block supplies for soldiers stationed there.

By launching firecrackers and throwing stones, residents prevented an army helicopter from landing on a hill in Aguililla, where the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Cárteles Unidos are engaged in a turf war.

The hill has been used as a heliport for helicopters bringing supplies to soldiers deployed in the town, located in Michoacán’s notoriously violent Tierra Caliente region.

Residents also used used rocks and other items to form large letters across the hill that together sent a clear message to authorities: “FUERA GOBIERNO,” or government (get) out. According to a report by Televisa News, the aim of the message was to get soldiers to leave their comfort zone – their barracks – and confront the criminals.

“… We don’t have food, electricity or telephone service. [The criminal groups] have cut off the roads. [But] the soldiers are well attended to, they get food, they get everything but the [ordinary] people don’t,” one Aguilla resident told the newspaper Milenio.

A banner in Aguililla lists the issues facing residents
A banner in Aguililla lists the issues facing residents: 10 days without basic services, six years without a bank, a year and a half without free transit and two years that farmers have been unable to ship their products.

Residents have also attacked Aguililla military barracks with stones, apparently in an attempt to jolt the soldiers into action.

“We’re not against them having what they need, they’re government workers, but … as we don’t have the means [to get supplies], we’re suffering worse than them,” said Gilberto Guevara, a local priest.

He said the arrival of helicopters with shipments of supplies for soldiers when residents can’t access those same supplies themselves is “almost like an insult.”

Residents also held marches for peace this week in both Aguilla and Morelia. In the state capital, protesters took a petition to the Michoacán Congress that set out a range of demands aimed at bringing peace to Aguilla and some semblance of normality to their lives.

“The most important thing is free transit,” said Karla Velazco, spokesperson for the group Voices of Aguililla.

As roads to Aguilla are constantly blocked by cartels, trucks transporting food, medicine and other essential goods are unable to get to the municipality, she said.

“We’re completely abandoned, we don’t feel like [the authorities] are providing a solution, or the solutions they’ve given us only last hours and that’s not what we’re asking for,” Velazco said, explaining that highway blockades have quickly reappeared after they were dismantled.

Many people have completely given up on Aguililla, choosing to flee and restart their lives in other states or even seek asylum in the United States.

With reports from Televisa and Milenio

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