Valparaiso, Mexico (AP) — When a gunshot was heard in the valley, residents locked the door and crouched inside the house. According to witnesses, the shootings continued for hours as about 200 armed men had just looted gas stations and the same number from hostile groups faced them.
Authorities did not arrive until the next day. When they did, they found 18 bodies in San Juan Capistrano, a small community of Valparaiso in Zacatecas. The states of central and northern Mexico are strategically important for medicines shipped to the United States. Two of Mexico’s most powerful cartels, the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation Cartels, are involved in a battle for control.
One month after the June 24 killing, there were no arrests. The army sent reinforcements, but the killings continued throughout Zacatecas: doctors here, police officers there, families were hacked into pieces, eight were killed at a party, and two girls were with their parents. Was shot by.
In countries that have suffered more than a decade of violence in the hands of powerful drug cartels, the situation in Zacatecus, and states suffering from violence such as Michoacan and Tamauripas, are both head-on, initiated by the former president. Felipe Calderon in 2006, which shows the drug war, and the current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s gentler “embrace rather than bullet” approach have succeeded in breaking the cycle of violence in Mexico.
According to the Mexican government, 746 homicides in Zacatecas in the first half of this year had the highest homicide rate per 100,000 domestic residents by June, compared to 1,065 in 2020 as a whole.
“The day they (soldiers) leave, we know from experience that criminal groups will soon fight for territory,” said Valparaiso’s worried mayor, Eleuterio Ramos.
It is the place that is worth fighting Zacatecas. It borders eight other states. Above all, cartels are fighting to control fentanyl, the most lucrative drug. Zacatecas is located between the production of drugs and their consumers.
Oscar Santiago Kintos, head of analysis and information at the Attorney General’s Office in Mexico, said fentanyl at the Nayarito, Jalisco and Sinaloa laboratories west of Zacatecas as the chemical precursors entered the Pacific harbor. Said that it would be finished as a pill. To the east is San Luis Potosí, a logistics hub full of shipping companies that can move small tablets north. The highway, which runs north to the major border cities, passes through Zacatecas and provides a direct route to drugs to the north and guns to the south.
“The battle for Zacatecas is part of a larger war to control the fentanyl market, the largest source of funding for US cartels,” said Mike Vigil, a former International Business Head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration. Stated. In 2020, about 93,000 people died from overdose of fentanyl in the United States. This is the highest ever.
Located in the hills of Sierra Madre, Valparaiso is on one of these important highways.
The shot-up pickup truck has taken a break here for the past month. Residents are reminded that they are still in line of fire while the Army and National Guard patrol the area.
The larger flow of international drug trafficking involving these Zacatecan communities may not be obvious to their residents, but its impact is unavoidable.
Farmers are often unable to go out to feed their livestock as shootouts ring across plains dotted with ranches. Frequently, store shelves and items stocking medical supplies do not arrive for fear of cartel failure. Gunmen stop residents and ask their cell phones to look for information that could be linked to other cartels. They sometimes hit or tie people up, even though they instill fear.
If someone doesn’t stop, they fire. Earlier this month, a doctor was killed because he didn’t stop at Jerez next door. Two paramedics carrying a woman by ambulance from neighboring Jalisco to the hospital were killed a few days before passing Valparaiso.
Last month, a priest was killed in a highway shootout. Residents said he was helping them regain electricity after the armed groups cut off power to some ranches.
“One town is dominated by Sinaloa, the next by Jalisco, and the next by Sinaloa,” said a community leader who demanded anonymity for more than 12 interviewed people to avoid impact. Said. He said that simply sharing territory with a group would cause residents to collusion in the eyes of the enemy.
Rumors have spread that cartels are forcing young people deprived of the community to work for them.
“There was a panic,” said the oldest 21-year-old man of the five brothers. They stayed just because they had no way or place to go.
Many families have left. To wait for other Mexican cities to settle down, other families went to the United States, home to about 1.5 million Zacatecans, the same number as Mexico.
Others just stayed inside. Claudina Betancourt, a nurse born in San Juan Capistrano, said: She continues to work here, but recently moved her belongings to Fresnillo, where her daughter and mother live.
There is no cellular coverage and there are only two phone booths, which adds to the uncertainty.
A few days after the June 24 shootout, authorities found two more bodies and increased the death toll to 20. Mayor Valparaiso could not confirm or deny the numbers from twice that number of residents. Apparently investigating a shootout, a detective pulled out of Valparaiso for his safety was later killed.
Similar violence is occurring in other states such as Michoacan and Guerrero, where residents captured during competing gangsters suffer from blackmail, kidnapping and killing.
For years, violence along the northern border of Mexico has been the focus of attention in cities such as Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez and Nuevo Laredo. When the cartel fought for control, Zacatecas also had it, but it was overshadowed. Today, Zacatecan, which includes the state capital of the same name, has been awakened several times to corpses hanging from the overpass.
Murders occur daily in Fresnillo, a city with a mix of local offices of major mining companies and farmers working in Mamebatake. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, Fresnillo is the most disturbed in Mexico, with 239 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Over 96% of the population lives in fear.
“There is anxiety and uncertainty about where to find family safety,” said Ramos, the mayor of Valparaiso, who had just been re-elected for the third term. He said he wasn’t directly threatened, but he has the same fears as everyone else.
The federal government of Mexico defends its policy of deploying National Guard and soldiers while targeting the root causes of violence: poverty, corruption and impunity in social programs. With over 100,000 guards and troops deployed in Mexico, violence is on the rise.
Former Attorney General of Zacatecas and current Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court, Arturo Nare, said these policies may be correct, but will take years to bear fruit. “The strategy the Mexican government has implemented in the last 15 years is not working,” he said.
The Lopez Obrador party has just acquired the governor of Zacatecas, but it is not yet known if coordination with federal authorities will improve.
“No matter what happened, if we can’t subdue Mexico, we won’t be able to prove our administration historically,” the president said earlier this month.
Last Wednesday he announced a “special strategy” to deal with the most murderous cities. Among them is Fresniro.
The effectiveness of their patrols has been debated, but more troops will be welcomed in Zacatecas.
A 74-year-old farmer living in San Juan Capistrano said, “With the army, no bad guys can come in,” and talked about the situation in the community. “The government can stop everything with care.”
But the inhabitants of the same area had different hopes for peace. It means that one cartel will win soon.