By JESSICA GUERRERO
MORELIA, Michoacán — Recent headlines and heart-wrenching images depict a tragic story of innocent families desperately trying to escape a chaotic situation that has transformed their homeland into of a disputed territory rife with war and unchecked violence where no government or international organizations dare to enter.
But this time, the grim scenario is not playing out in Afghanistan, but in Mexico.
Although it is on a much smaller scale than the current turmoil in Afghanistan, the lawless mobocracy in several Michoacán towns bears a sad similarity to that in the central Asian country that has so rightly earned the title of “Graveyard of Empires.”
The constant disputes between Mexico’s drug cartels for control of the municipalities of Tepalcatepec, Aguililla and Coalcomán have generated an unprecedented social and humanitarian crisis in the state.
The Tierra Caliente region in the central and southern part of Michoacán was once known for its large agricultural production, mainly of avocados and limes.
But today it stands out for its elevated levels of violence and criminal activity and for the production and distribution of illicit drugs.
This region of western Mexico is also the cradle of Mexican mafia bosses, such as Nemesio Oseguera, alias “El Mencho” and leader of the bloody New General Jalisco Cartel (CJNG). who is a native of the municipality of Aguililla, located in the southwest of the state.
It is also in this town that, in recent months, there has been an incessant power struggle between the aforementioned cartel and the so-called United Cartels, a lose organization that emerged from an alliance between the Tepalcatepec Cartel, Los Viagras and several other criminal groups that are trying to fend off the CJNG.
The struggle between these criminal organizations has resulted in desolation, terror and a significant displacement of entire communities in the region, with thousands of people having been forced to leave everything behind and to flee the region just to survive.
And those who have decided to stay face an even more hopeless reality.
The constant confrontations between the various armed groups, intermittent road blockades and savage destruction of property have created a severe shortage of basic foods and other goods for the local population, as well as a restriction of basic services such as telecommunications and potable water.
Worse yet, this calamitous narrative, which initially arose as an isolated situation in the town of Tepalcatepec, has been replicated in other municipalities in the region, first in Aguililla and now in Coalcomán, where inhabitants have resorted to mass gathering to ask God to restore peace since both state and federal officials have flatly refused to intervene.
These villagers have clung to their faith, having nothing else to hold on to.
The situation worsens as the days go by and the uncertainty generated by the persistent climate of insecurity keeps residents in a constant state of collective psychosis.
On Aug. 11, several social network videos of the town went viral showing women and children walking through improvised roads and highways in the mountains. They all had backpacks and grocery bags with their belongings as they were seen abandoning their homes to escape surging violence and insecurity.
Michoacán Governor Silvano Aureoles Conejo has so far downplayed the seriousness of the security problem in Coalcomán, telling residents that media reports of the dangers have been vastly exaggerated.
Unconvinced by the governor’s shallow assurances, residents, led by a parish priest of the local church, wrote an open letter to the Michoacán Council for Reconciliation and Peace appealing for help to end the violence and chaos.
Likewise, the residents have asked for support from the United Nations and international human rights organizations to intercede on behalf of the government of Mexico to bring an end to the mounting blood and gore in which they are immersed.
Unless something drastic is done to change the situation, that number will only continue to rise.