A turf war between rival cartels has turned the Sonoran Desert into a battleground.
The sons of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán are fighting for control of the area with the Caborca Cartel, led by Rafael Caro Quintero, and homicides are up 28% over 2019, Televisa reports.
Assaults are also on the rise, especially on the highways leading to and from Caborca, Puerto Peñasco and Puerto Lobos.
So far this week two cattle ranches in the agricultural valley of Caborca on the old road to Puerto Lobos were set on fire by an armed group. Three homes were shot up, a tire business and an asparagus packing plant were set on fire and four men were murdered, one in front of his family after armed men pulled him from his home.
More than 100 truck drivers spent a night in Sonoyta for fear of being attacked by criminal groups on the highway to Caborca.
Earlier this month a family from Mesa, Arizona, traveling to their vacation home in Puerto Lobos, was robbed at gunpoint of their truck, trailer loaded with three ATVs, and all their luggage. No one was injured in the assault and the family’s truck was later found abandoned and returned to them.
The mayor of Caborca, Librado Macías, admits that the area’s location near the border with the United States makes it a prime target for cartel violence as gangs fight for control of the drug route north. “It is related to the proximity that this region has with the United States, it is a very long border area. … It is a confrontation between two stubborn groups that want to kill each other,” Macías said.
Narco-banners signed by the Caro Quintero faction have appeared in the area, asserting dominance and warning that attacks will continue. The message is similar to one left in May, which was found with two ice chests filled with human remains.
In June, a firefight between rival groups left 12 people dead and several houses, cars, and a gas station were set on fire, prompting the United States to issue a June 22 travel alert.