A banner declares an S.O.S. in Apatzingán on Sunday. A banner declares an S.O.S. in Apatzingán on Sunday.

Tierra Caliente protest demands military intervention to halt violence

Hugs not working against criminal organizations, say citizens

Residents of the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán protested on Sunday to demand military intervention to combat organized crime.

“Hugs, not bullets doesn’t work in Tepalcatepec, Aguililla and Coalcomán. The federal government is abandoning its people, massacred by the CJNG [Jalisco New Generation Cartel],” read one banner held up by protesters outside a military base in Apatzingán.

“Hugs, not bullets” is an epithet for the government’s non-interventionist security strategy that favors addressing the root causes of violence over combating it with force.

The government has been criticized for not doing enough to combat violence in the Tierra Caliente of Michoacán, where the CJNG and the Cárteles Unidos are engaged in a bloody turf war.

Aguililla has been the worst affected municipality in recent times but violence has also caused the displacement of residents in Buenavista, Apatzingán and Coalcomán, where 3,000 people fled in August.

More recently, residents of Tepalcatepec – scene of numerous cartel attacks in recent years – abandoned their homes after acts of aggression attributed to cells of the Jalisco cartel were perpetrated in several communities last Friday.

Mayor Martha Laura Mendoza said that about 1,000 people had taken shelter in a sports center in Tepalcatepec and urged the deployment of the army to affected areas of the municipality.

“The confrontations [between cartels] are very strong at the moment and the most important thing for me is to protect the children,” she said.

“We’re being displaced from our homes, we’re afraid, they’re throwing bombs and grenades at us,” one woman told the newspaper Reforma at Sunday’s protest.

“… [President] López Obrador must listen to us. We’re hungry and cold, we’re calling on the relevant authorities to support us, not just authorities of the state but also the United Nations and UNICEF. … Children have no homes because [organized] crime has destroyed their homes with flamethrowers. We need help from … all the forces of Mexico …” she said.

With reports from Reforma 

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