A new wave of violence in Michoacán leaves dozens of families displaced:
At least 30 families have left their communities in recent months due to the terror unleashed in the State by the dispute between organized crime groups.
The violence unleashed by organized crime groups has caused the forced displacement of at least 30 families in the region known as Tierra Caliente, in the state of Michoacán (western Mexico), local human rights organizations denounce. This region is disputed by the groups Los Viagras, Jalisco Nueva Generación and the Nueva Familia Michoacana, which also extort, steal and kidnap local businessmen and producers.
“It is a very delicate situation,” says Juan Plancarte Esquivel, of the State Commission for Human Rights (CEDH). “It is an area that represents a constant risk,” says the defender, who is prevented from working because violence does not allow them access to these places governed by organized gangs.
Women, children, the elderly, young people and adults could no longer bear the violence and insecurity in the Tierra Caliente of Michoacán , so they decided to free themselves and leave their homelands.
They left in stealth, in search of peace and a better future, they left their homes, their pets and their communities. Entire families fled from the shootings, the kidnappings, the extortion; and also to prevent their children from being recruited by “La Maña”, as they call the criminal cells.
Priests of the diocese of Apatzingán publicly denounced that crime burns and shoots houses in the region when their demands are not met.
In recent weeks, violence has hit the municipalities of Buenavista, Tepalcatepec, Aguililla and Apatzingán hard. In the latter, the local diocese has denounced the burning of vehicles and armed attacks on houses through local media. It is because of this hell that entire families have left their homes. Because ECHR defenders are unable to visit the region due to the violence, it is difficult for them to keep an exhaustive count of the displaced, but they claim that at least 30 families have left their villages in the last three months, although they believe the number may be much higher.
“The violence derived from acts caused by active organized crime groups in that region motivates entire families to leave their area of residence and go to other regions, even outside the State of Michoacán and some even leave the country. Families move due to their own need for protection and move without us being able to identify how many have left, ” says Plancarte Esquivel. The ECHR says that the displaced are fleeing to the states of Colima, Jalisco, Morelia (the capital of Michoacán) and Mexico City.
Plancarte Esquivel gives an account of the orders he has made, which seem more like a clamor. “We have urged the state authority to provide immediate attention. We have channeled the files to the National Human Rights Commission to also issue the corresponding warrants to the federal authorities, so that they develop public policies to give immediate attention to these types of situations, because they are exceeding us. These families need protection, financial help, work, school. We cannot provide adequate care for them. It escapes us at this moment ”, laments the defender.
In an interview, Plancarte Esquivel urged the three levels of government to work together to provide comprehensive care for families displaced by insecurity. He spoke in favor of establishing a place where families who have suffered the attacks of crime in Michoacán can be with certainty.
There are no precise figures for the families that escaped from the Tierra Caliente region, because there are very few reports of the exodus due to fear. Also, in the month of August of the previous year, in the municipality of Parácuaro, the crime generated an escalation of violence that caused people to emigrate from their communities, leaving “ghost towns”.
Regarding forced displacements, the municipal authorities refuse to testify for fear of reprisals from “La Maña.” The Michoacan diaspora was mainly caused by the CJNG, Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel, and Los Viagra , who are fighting for control of the traffic of methamphetamine, marijuana and poppy crops. Both criminal groups have converted communities such as La Bocanda, El Guaje, Pizandaro, Cenobio Moreno, Uspero, Las Crucecitas, into fields of bloody battles.
Michoacán is one of the states of Mexico hardest hit by Organized Crime :
The region produces 70% of the world’s avocado, in addition to a good part of the global lemon and papaya production and has abundant natural resources. Between January and November 2019, 1,465 murders were committed in the entity, 200 more than in all of 2018, according to figures from the Secretariat of the National Public Security System (SESNSP). Added to this were extortion, kidnapping and retaliation against those who refuse to comply with the demands of criminal groups.
Due to its wealth and because it is an important drug route, the region is disputed mainly by Los Viagras and the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel, CJNG. In addition, cells of the Michoácan Family and the Knights Templar still survive, two organizations that stained the region with blood during the governments of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018).
The homicides and extortion in the region last year led the United States Department of Agriculture to alert the country’s producers that it would suspend the certification of avocados – a fundamental requirement for export to the United States – if measures are not taken to guarantee the safety of its health personnel who operate in the producing farms of the region. “It is essential that proactive measures are taken to avoid future incidents,” warned Marie Martin, director of the Mexico Pre-authorization Area of the Department of Agriculture, in a statement sent to the association of Mexican avocado producers (APEAM) .
Due to the violence, the so-called self-defense groups, armed groups that fight organized crime, were formed in the region a few years ago. Hipólito Mora, a mythical leader of these groups of armed civilians and a critic of the Government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, harshly attacks the municipal, state and federal governments because he believes that they have not taken measures to prevent the bleeding that Michoacán suffers.
“They do not do the work as required by law, because they are obliged to protect us, the citizens are left alone,” he says by phone from Buenavista, where he lives. “Organized crime can do whatever it wants and we don’t have anyone who fights for security and peace here in the region,” he adds.
Mora is a producer of lemons and affirms that although he does not receive extortion directly, he and the other farmers suffer the measures of the criminal groups: they threaten the companies that pack the fruit, for which they have to pay a “tax”, (piso) which then affects the price they pay to the producers for the lemons.
“The money that is in the region makes them very profitable, because extortion becomes a profitable business, the collection of “taxes” or “piso” from businesses,” he says. “Society is very afraid. They know that from the moment they leave their homes for their jobs, they are in danger of being robbed, kidnapped, coming to their business to collect money ”, explains the producer.
Mora does not hide his anger: “The three levels of government [municipal, state, federal] are filthy. Some for colluded and others because their superiors tell them not to do anything to avoid deaths. They have the obligation to give security to the citizens ”.
In the opinion of the head of the State Secretariat of Public Security (S SP ), Israel Patron Reyes, the violence generated by the crime “is because we are acting on them.”
He remarked that the joint work between the federation and the state of Michoacán “has allowed us to expand the seizure of weapons, stolen vehicles and the arrest of those likely responsible.” “The operation is continuous and permanent against crime,” said Silvano Aureoles Conejo’s government official.
In counterpart, the United States Department activated the travel alert against Michoacán due to the presence of organized crime. In addition, he recognized that the US government has a limited capacity to provide emergency services to its citizens. And even travel by employees of the government of the United States are prohibited or significantly restricted Michoácan.