Fighting in Aguililla, Michoacán, has spread to other municipalities in the notoriously violent Tierra Caliente region, strategically significant for drug trafficking and the production of methamphetamine due to its proximity to the port of Lázaro Cárdenas.
Self-defense groups pertaining to Pueblos Unidos and criminal cells of Los Viagras — part of Cárteles Unidos — are trying to prevent the spread of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and stop its alleged lieutenant, Miguel Ángel Gallegos Godoy, from taking control of the area. New blockades have caused fear and tension and disruption of trade and transport in the municipalities of La Huacana, Ario de Rosales, Nuevo Urecho, Salvador Escalante and Nueva Italia.
A territorial battle between narco groups Cárteles Unidos and CJNG has raged in Aguililla since at least early April. CJNG’s leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, also known as “El Mencho,” was born in Aguililla, and it was reported in 2019 that he wanted to return to the town. The bloody turf war has caused a mass exodus from the municipality.
La Huacana, 162 kilometers east of Aguililla, has been under siege for weeks by Pueblos Unidos and Los Viagras, the newspaper El Universal reported on Wednesday. To the north of the city, the Pueblos Unidos has blocked the main point of entry, the La Huacana-Ario de Rosales highway, which is the route to the state capital Morelia. To the south, in the direction of Lázaro Cárdenas, on the border with Churumuco, there is a blockade by Los Viagras.
The borders at Ario de Rosales and Churumuco are points of high tension where Pueblos Unidos, Los Viagras, and the CJNG all have look-outs and conduct armed patrols.
The Pueblos Unidos completely closed the northern entrance to La Huacana after the June 6 election, which raised prices for basic products and transport costs, as providers had to take longer back roads. It is not clear if any traffic has been allowed to pass since that date.
Goods vendors have expressed their fear to travel to La Huacana by the back roads due to the risk of vehicles being hijacked and and set alight to form a road blockade.
Buses from Mexico City and Morelia have been suspended for weeks, leaving the small bus terminal empty.
A store owner in La Huacana, Graciela Teniza, said transit had come to a halt. “People do not come to town. To leave it, you have to think about it a lot, since it is very expensive, and there isn’t much income,” she said.
However, another resident said that the violence had remained peripheral to daily life. “We are in the midst of a dispute, about which everyone here in the village knows, but very little is said. We only see the trucks with armed people passing from one place to another, always keeping guard so that their opponents can’t enter.”
With reports from El Universal