The attack on an Irapuato, Guanajuato, rehabilitation center on Wednesday that left 26 dead was carried out by hitmen from the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, according to survivors.
Their intention was the murder of a group of residents at the center who allegedly belonged to the rival Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), the newspaper Milenio reported.
Witnesses say at least four men armed with high-powered weapons entered the center located in the Jardines de Arandas neighborhood, told women inside to flee and forced male residents to the floor before executing them indiscriminately. Seven residents were wounded but two have since died.
Investigating authorities report that survivors of the attack claim the gunmen entered the unlicensed facility shouting that they were there on behalf of “El Marro,” the nickname of Santa Rosa de Lima leader José Antonio Yépez Ortiz.
Members of the Jalisco cartel were present at the rehab center, authorities say, but it is not yet known how many of them are among the dead.
This attack occurred after the CJNG allegedly murdered El Marro’s mother’s lawyer last week. The lawyer, whose name has not been made public, was stopped by police officers at a checkpoint in Silao and later shot in the head and killed. Hours later, three police officers who were manning the checkpoint were found murdered.
El Marro took responsibility for their deaths in a video posted to social media, claiming that the officers established the checkpoint to find his mother in order to turn her over to the CJNG, but he had his mother switch cars at the last minute.
In the past week the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel has hung printed narco banners in 23 of the state’s 46 municipalities. The messages, written in white letters on a blue background were clear: “A message for the fucking CJNG who are here, we are on to you … the people of Guanajuato are in charge.” A banner hung in Celaya was accompanied by a man’s body.
With rival cartels battling for turf, power and influence, Irapuato was named the fourth most violent city in the world in 2019 by the Mexican non-profit Citizen’s Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, with a homicide rate of 80.74 per 100,000 inhabitants. Tijuana, Baja California Sur; Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua; and Uruapan, Michoacán, respectively, topped that same list.
Attacks on rehab centers in Guanajuato are common. Less than a month ago 10 people in Irapuato were killed in a separate attack. Some gangs have carried out attacks targeting ex-members who checked themselves into rehab as a way of leaving their criminal lives behind. Other criminals use rehab centers as safe houses.
In the aftermath of Wednesday’s attack Guanajuato Governor Diego Sinhué Rodríguez Vallejo announced the formation of a safety task force involving federal, state and municipal authorities.“The violence generated by organized crime not only takes the lives of the young, but it takes the peace from families in Guanajuato,” he posted to social media.