Local Protestors, Organized Crime Wreak Havoc across Chilpancingo

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On Monday, July 10, thousands of protestors from nearby municipalities stormed through the barricades established by the Mexican National Guard (GN) and state police in the Pacific Mexican state of Guerrero’s capital of Chilpancingo, blocking roads, commandeering military vehicles and wreaking violent havoc across the city in supposed demand for the release of two local transport figures – who also happen to be leaders of the Los Ardillos cartel, one of the most prolific organized crime groups operating in the Guerrero area.

Although the violence was eventually squelched late Tuesday afternoon, with the release of 13 hostages, the chaotic surge left an indelible mark on the already-unstable state.

Reports cited the July 5 arrest of Jesús Echeverría Peñafiel and his accomplice Bernardo “C ,” both of whom have been linked to the Los Ardillos’ armed group the UPOEG Community Police and charged with possession of exclusive military weaponry by the Attorney General of the Republic (FGR), as the source of the violence in Chilpancingo, which only grew Monday following the murders of five of the capital’s public transport drivers over the weekend. 

The 2,000-plus protestors purportedly marched to Chilpancingo from neighboring municipalities Quechultenango, Mochitlán and Juan R. Escudero, all of which are known to be under Los Ardillos’ control.

Upon arrival to Chilpancingo, the protestors – who supposedly outnumbered the GN and state police elements present by four to one – knocked over the barriers established to keep them out before seizing a Rhino armored vehicle from the local authorities, which they used to ram into the Guerrero State Congress building and the State Government Palace, providing open access to protestors later that night.

Soon after penetrating the capital, the protestors quickly forced the present military elements to retreat and ultimately captured 10 military elements as hostages, including three state officials, one federal official, five state officers and four members of the GN.

The protestors went on to block a section of Mexico’s Autopista del Sol, one of the nation’s most important toll roads, which connects Mexico City and Cuernavaca to Chilpancingo and Acapulco by car.

Chilpancingo residents were reported to have barricaded themselves in their houses or sought refuge wherever possible as the violence raged on outside, while the capital’s businesses shuttered their doors to the public and school classes were suspended citywide.

Meanwhile, Chilpancingo Mayor Norma Otilia Hernández seemingly abandoned her city across the violence, just days after a video of her consulting with Los Ardillos boss Celso Ortega over breakfast July 5 went viral across social media. She held a press conference on Monday morning before the protest reached the capital to claim that she was “not a criminal” as it is “one thing to talk to and another to agree with” organized crime groups.

Likewise, Guerrero Governor Evelyn Salgado – who some claim is only a figurehead as her father, Félix Salgado Macedonio, actually governs the state – failed to address the outbreak of violence in her state’s capital until a statement late Monday afternoon, refusing to appear in front of her constituents or address Chilpancingo residents’ fears.

“The silence of Guerrero Governor Salgado and the controversial mayoress Otilia Hernández, both from the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party, said it all: A total vacuum of legality and authority took over the state capital, leaving the hordes of rebels and protestors who besieged the city and its government buildings, both the palace and the state Congress, due to the inaction and complacency of the state and federal authorities, who found themselves overwhelmed or decided not to act,” journalist and political analyst Salvador Garcia Soto wrote in his column for daily Mexican newspaper El Universal.

The bureaucratic ramifications of Monday’s violence blew into the federal political sphere, causing aspiring Morena presidential candidate Adán Augusto López to suspend his planned visit to the Guerrero capital while Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) publicly requested for Guerrero residents to “not be manipulated” by Los Ardillos, instead touting the public resources his administration had delivered to the state.

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