Residents of a cartel-controlled community in Guanajuato confronted soldiers and Federal Police officers Saturday, forcing the security forces to retreat.
A group of between 50 and 100 people – mainly women – shouted insults at the federal forces in Santa Rosa de Lima, a town in the municipality of Villagrán that is a stronghold of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, a gang of fuel thieves.
“. . . We don’t want you here . . .” the residents yelled along with expletive-laden abuse, the newspaper Milenio reported.
To avoid an escalation of hostilities, the soldiers and police decided to leave Santa Rosa after which residents set tires at the town’s entrance to prevent their return.
The security forces had been carrying out patrols supported by two navy helicopters.
Saturday’s confrontation was not the first time that Santa Rosa de Lima residents have stood up against security forces.
On January 29, an anti-fuel theft operation in Villagrán that resulted in the seizure of at least 24 tanker trucks filled with gasoline, seven trailers and 5,000 liters of stolen fuel triggered a hostile response from residents who attempted to repel security forces with fiery blockades.
Two days later, a narco-banner appeared in Salamanca warning President López Obrador to remove security forces from the Guanajuato or innocent people will die.
The banner, signed by “El Señor Marro,” also said that “a little gift” had been left at the Salamanca oil refinery.
The gift, the government later confirmed, consisted of explosive devices left inside a vehicle parked in front of one of the refinery’s entrances. The explosives were removed before they detonated and were destroyed by authorities.
The gang is believed headed by José Antonio “El Marro” Yépez Ortiz, who has evaded capture even though federal authorities have a lot of information about him, including ranches he frequents, his closest criminal associates and the locations his gang targets to extract fuel from Pemex pipelines.
His criminal organization is believed to be behind much of the violence that made Guanajuato Mexico’s deadliest state last year.
According to federal intelligence officials, the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel is now expanding into Querétaro and Hidalgo to steal fuel from petroleum pipelines in those states.