It was a night of terror for a small town in Guerrero this week when at least 40 armed men kidnapped seven people, peppered homes with machine gun fire and robbed some residents of cash and belongings.
The attack on Chacotla began at about 10:30pm and wound up some five hours later and despite calls to 911, municipal and state police offices and the Army, authorities didn’t turn up until the following day. The town of 800 people is located 40 minutes from the state capital of Chilpancingo.
On Wednesday, five of the kidnap victims were found dead.
Upon their arrival in the town the gang blocked the main road before seeking two people in particular: sons of Gabriel González, also known as El Tigre, a 42-year-old man who no longer lives in the community.
The gunmen took González’ sons, aged 21 and 16, along with their mother before nabbing two of González’ nephews, 22 and 17, from their grandparents’ home.
A third man managed to escape with his daughter before the gangsters arrived at his home but his wife instead became the sixth kidnap victim. The seventh was taken from the neighboring town of Mazatlán as the criminals fled.
Residents say they heard several of the armed men identifying themselves as members of the Union of the People and Organizations of Guerrero (UPOEG) community police but that organization later denied any involvement.
Other names were also mentioned: that of Isaac Navarrete, leader of the Sierra cartel, and Celso Ortega, chief of Los Ardillos.
Later Tuesday morning the kidnappers contacted the victims’ relatives, demanding ransoms that totaled 1.5 million pesos, about US $74,000. The amount was later reduced to 1 million but the families, all farmers, were unable to raise the money.
Early Wednesday morning, the two kidnapped women returned to their homes after being left on the shoulder of a road and walking for about two hours.
The fate of the five men was known an hour later: their bodies had been left by the side of the nearby road between the communities of Mazatlán and El Salado y Lagunillas, each with two shots to the head.
The gang wasn’t done harassing Chacotla residents. During funeral services for the five executed men on Wednesday evening relatives received phone calls, allegedly from the kidnappers, threatening them with further violence and kidnapping.
Few people attended the burials as fear and apprehension prevailed in the community. Police presence in the town had been sporadic throughout the week so the bereaved residents asked authorities for protection during the funeral services and burials, but their request went unanswered.
Now, the people of Chacotla are not happy with the performance of federal, state and local authorities.
“This cannot be, we’re at the mercy of these criminal groups and the government has abandoned its responsibility of at least guaranteeing our right to live,” said one.
Late Wednesday evening, eight trucks carrying Federal Police officers turned up, set up a checkpoint at the entrance to the town and began patrols.