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Soldiers on patrol in Guerrero. Soldiers on patrol in Guerrero.

Tierra Caliente defenseless against three feuding drug cartels

No one immune to cartel activities in nine municipalities

Residents and authorities of the Tierra Caliente region of Guerrero are defenseless against the relentless harassment and threats of three feuding drug cartels, according to a report published today by the newspaper Reforma.

Extortion and kidnappings are commonplace in the nine Guerrero municipalities that make up one part of the wider region named for its hot climate and notorious for opium poppy production, drug trafficking and cartel-related violence.

Neither private citizens nor large and small businesses are immune to the cartels’ criminal activities, which include the extortion practice known as cobro de piso or derecho de piso: regular payments in exchange for allowing commercial activity to continue undisturbed.

The three cartels that control different parts of the region all engage in the practice.

But while state and federal authorities have identified the main leaders of La Familia Michoacana, Los Tequileros and the Knights Templar, none of the three has been arrested.

The cartels also frequently target municipal governments for extortion payments by demanding between 5% and 10% of the cost of infrastructure projects they carry out, Reforma said.

A councilor from one of the nine Tierra Caliente municipalities who spoke to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity said that they are forced to comply with the cartels in order to maintain some semblance of normality.

“We have to give them 10%; that’s the only way they let us work and govern and commit to letting people live their normal lives,” the official said.

In contrast, at least one past example provides evidence that refusal to comply with cartel demands could have fatal consequences.

In July 2016, the mayor of Pungarabato was murdered by a gang of armed men after he denounced the Knights Templar for demanding extortion payments from the local government.

The cartel had also demanded that Ambrosio Soto give it the right to name municipal officials in the government he led, including the chief of police and director of public works.

Three weeks before his death, Soto was warned via a text message to his phone that “the order to kill you has been given.”

Regions of Guerrero, Tierra Caliente in orange.
Regions of Guerrero, Tierra Caliente in orange.

In the same municipality, Coca-Cola Femsa closed its Ciudad Altamirano distribution center in March following months of threats and aggression against its employees and two attacks on the facility in the space of a single week.

In the neighboring municipality of Coyuca de Catalán, three soldiers were killed and three more were wounded Tuesday night after they were ambushed by armed men.

Earlier the same day, the bullet-riddled body of the mayor and state Congress candidate Abel Montúfar Mendoza was found on the road between Ciudad Altamirano and Coyuca.

Violence in the region continues despite federal and state governments carrying out three massive security operations in the past four years in which the Federal Police, the army and the National Gendarmerie have all participated.

The nine Guerrero municipalities comprising its Tierra Caliente region are Arcelia, San Miguel Totolapan, Ajuchitlán del Progreso, Tlapehuala, Coyuca de Catalán, Zirándaro, Cutzamala de Pinzón, Pungarabato and Tlalchapa.

Several municipalities in Michoacán and México state are also part of the same region.

Source: Reforma (sp)

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