The Return of Violent Times in Michoacán


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MORELIA, Michoacán — The apparent peace that had prevailed in the western state of Michoacán during the first two months of 2023 not only seems to have ended, but the levels of cartel-related violence reached during the month of March may be just the tip of the iceberg of what could be coming for the state in the next few months.

Three of the most popular and exclusive nightclubs in Morelia, the state’s capital, were turned to ashes on the morning of Saturday, March 11, after armed men set them on fire during the early hours of the day in the presence of the venue’s own employees. Fortunately, no victims were reported during these incidents.

Despite being promptly reported to local authorities and the city’s firemen, nothing could be done to extinguish the fire, since the perpetrators had used multiple Molotov cocktails, as well as fuel, causing the fires to quickly spread throughout the buildings in a matter of minutes.

According to testimonies of the owners of these establishments, weeks prior to this violent incident, members of different criminal groups had attempted to extort them by demanding large amounts of money in exchange for letting them operate their businesses, a ransom that they refused to pay.

On the other hand, the highways of the state have become an open battlefield for the various criminal groups operating in Michoacán. It is especially in the eastern region of the state where violence has not ceased due the disputes over that territory by at least two cartels.

The apparent split in the alleged partnership between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Familia Michoacana Cartel is worrisome due to the impact this may have on the state’s security. On Friday, March 17, a bloody encounter took place between members of the two groups, leaving two dead and 11 injured. Some of the victims were civilians, including a child.

It is not yet possible to estimate the potential consequences that the end of this longtime partnership between the two cartels will represent for state security going forward.

Ironically, the perception of the governor of Michoacán, Alfredo Ramírez Bedolla, regarding the situation of vulnerability and insecurity that the state is facing is far from reality. According to him, his administration has rather achieved a decrease in the crime rate. The facts and figures, however, prove otherwise.

The number of people displaced by violence in Michoacán continues to rise. In municipalities like Chinicuila, located in the south-central region of the state, at least 70 percent of the population, including the town’s mayor himself, have had to leave their homes due to the spiraling violence and constant threats from criminals.

This only adds to the list of almost half a million people from Michoacán who have been forced to leave their homes in the last 10 years. Despite this being a vivid example of the great humanitarian crisis that Mexico is facing due to the insecurity levels that prevails in the country, the federal and local governments do not seem to be bothered by it.

It is evident that the security of the people of Michoacán is no longer a priority for the federal government, contrasting what leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) preached in 2021 during the political campaign of Governor Ramirez Bedolla, a member of AMLO’s National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party, when he presented a plan to “save” Michoacán from its current security crisis.

As of today, that plan has yet to be executed, and the people of Michoacán are paying the price. 

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