The Mexican Army is deployed in Zacatecas, Mexico, amid escalating violence. Photo: Google

By MARK LORENZANA

At least three people were taken at gunpoint from a bar by armed men at dawn on Saturday, June 18, in the municipal seat of Jerez de García Salinas, in Zacatecas, a state in northcentral Mexico.

According to local reports, at least six individuals broke into the bar, firing shots, and proceeded to search the tables to locate the victims. Three men were dragged out of the bar by the armed group.

The Mexican Army and the National Guard launched an operation to search for the kidnapped people, who were not identified. Authorities said the kidnappers left road spikes in the path of oncoming police to evade pursuit.

The kidnappings in Jerez de García Salinas occurred just hours after clashes erupted between armed groups, also in Jerez, leaving at least four people dead. The first shootings began at around 1 a.m., and increased in intensity an hour later, as the shootings spread to various points in the downtown area. Gunfire awakened residents, and some witnesses posted short video clips of the armed clashes on social media.

Although the shootings continued for several hours, no members of the National Guard were deployed to contain the armed groups. Zacatecas Governor David Monreal Ávila — a member of the leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) — has been under intense criticism for failing to curb the violence and killings since he assumed office in September 2021.

In April of this year, six bodies with obvious signs of torture were found in Pinos, Zacatecas, a town near the state border with San Luis Potosí. A month later, in May, a three-year-old was shot dead in a church in Fresnillo, Zacatecas, the victim of crossfire in a chase between alleged criminals. Just recently, on June 8, two bags with human remains were found in the metropolitan municipality of Guadalupe, also in Zacatecas.

Just one month into his six-year term as governor of Zacatecas, Monreal Ávila’s administration had already racked up a roster of 220 drug-related murders. In January of this year, the bodies of 10 murdered people were found in front Monreal’s Ávila’s office, stuffed inside a flatbed pickup truck in the main plaza of the state capital. Zacatecas Chief Prosecutor Francisco Murillo said seven of the bodies had been autopsied and all died of “asphyxiation by strangulation.”

In November of last year, López Obrador visited Zacatecas, in a show of support to Monreal Ávila, and promised the governor that he would deploy a large contingent of federal armed forces to the state. Zacatecas has been plagued by a shortage of municipal police, who would abandon their posts in fear of retaliation by criminal elements. This lack of police presence has led to the growing insecurity in many of the municipalities.

Most of the violence in Zacatecas is caused by the ongoing turf war between the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (CJNG) and the Sinaloa Cartel, experts say. One of the most violent clashes between the two rival cartels happened in June of last year, leaving 19 people dead.

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