By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
The central western Mexican state of Michoacán is at war.
For now, an eerie calm prevails, but the state’s 4.7 million residents know full well that that tenuous ceasefire can be broken at any moment
Michoacán is ground zero for a turf war between the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), formerly known as the Zetas, and henchmen from the so-called United Cartels, composed of paramilitary fighters from the Sinaloa Cartel, the Gulf Cartel and the locally-based Knight Templar Cartel aimed at keeping the CJNG’s territorial ambitions in check.
On Saturday, July 3, the residents of the mountain town of Aguililla, Michoacán, held a public march to demand peace and reconciliation in the region, and to call on President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) — who just two days earlier offered a broadcast state of the nation address saying that the country’s drug cartels were “well in hand” — to come see their situation for himself.
For months, the territorial war between the CJNG and the United Cartels has left Aguililla in the crossfire of the conflict, without access to food or other supplies from the outside world because the crime groups have blocked the highways going in and out of the town.
The residents claim that the federal government’s indifference to their plight has only led to an acceleration of the cartel war, leaving the town of 15,000 residents helpless.
Aguililla is not the only Michoacán town under siege by drug lords.
The nearby villages of Tocumbo, Tacátzcuaro and Santa Inés, in the state’s Cotija region, have have witnessed constant shootouts, with hundreds of bullets flying randomly across civilian territories, all of which were duly recorded on various videos currently circulating on social networks.
Other videos show the massive impenetrable tanks and armored vehicles that the United Cartels are using in their assaults on the CJNG.
According to unconfirmed sources, clashes in Aguililla on Saturday, July 2, left seven dead, two members of the United Cartels and five alleged CJNG hitmen, while a nearby brigade of National Guard troops remained in their barracks, not daring to interfere in the fighting.
The real victims of the cartel turf wars are the citizens, who on Sunday, July 3, held a public mass calling on the Virgin of Guadalupe — Mexico’s patron saint — to intervene on their behalf and bring an end to the violence.
Hopefully, the Virgin will be more responsive than the federal government has been.