Tuesday, June 6

CJNG: A drone, explosions and impunity: the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel exhibits its firepower in Michoacán

A vehicle from the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel and a drone form a rental in the municipality of Aguililla, Michoacan in April 2021.
A vehicle from the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel and a drone form a rental in the municipality of Aguililla, Michoacan in April 2021.Darkroom

First there is an explosion. Fire. Smoke. Then dozens of people are seen running out of what look like huts hidden in the trees. Three more projectiles fall on the town. The camera widens the focus and from above you can see how the flames begin to consume a yellowish forest. The video, of two minutes and 20 seconds, is recorded from a remote-controlled drone of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), which was also in charge this Monday of dropping the bombings on the shacks of the municipality of Tepalcatepec, in the State of Michoacán.

Then clumsy zooms on the fire; others about the neighbors who escape terrified. At minute 1:18 the camera begins to rotate chaotically and only blurry images are seen, runs: the inhabitants of the area have managed to shoot down the drone. This is how the recording was achieved, according to The universal.

It was not the only attack of the day. The criminal group launched an offensive in different towns in the same municipality. In another video broadcast by neighbors, two members of a local self-defense group, armed and refugees, are seen against a tree trunk. The shots of the drug traffickers resound dryly around him. At one point, one of the men grabs his rifle and tries to return fire, but the CJNG’s firepower is much greater and they are forced to flee. There the recording becomes adrenaline-pumping: you can see how they escape through the forest in distorted and rapid images of dry branches and leaves. Meanwhile, the shooting rumbles in the background, omnipresent.

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The video captured by the drone camera during the attack.

The situation has become extreme for the inhabitants of the municipality. Last week, in another video broadcast on social networks, the mayor, Martha Laura Mendoza, was heard in a meeting asking desperately for help from the authorities: “In Tepalcatepec we already have four months of insecurity. Nobody turns to see us there. Everything that was talked about right now is very nice, hopefully and it comes true. But this is the only municipality in which we have more than 3,000 displaced people ”. He makes a small pause that gives gravity to his intervention and, with an urgent tone of voice, he repeats: “Four months and nobody turns to see us, nobody gives a solution!”

Michoacán has been a hot zone for drug traffickers since its existence, although in recent months the situation has worsened in a fight between rival cartels in which the name of the CJNG always stands out. In fact, it is not the first time that the criminal group has attacked with drones in the region. It has become a common way of demonstrating their might, a firepower typical of a professional army. The game is twofold: in addition to ending any opposition, they challenge the state, often without finding a response. Nor is it strange to see news in the local press about towns that are left without police: the agents flee amid threats, overwhelmed by the arms deployment of the drug traffickers.

The cocktail party was also joined since the 1990s by dozens of self-defense groups that, tired of what they considered institutional neglect, decided to arm themselves and protect themselves against criminal organizations. Between 15,000 and 25,000 people integrated these commands as of 2013, according to estimates by Romain Le Cour, coordinator of Mexico’s security program Evalúa, who conducted an in-depth investigation into this phenomenon. The end result was like adding more gunpowder to a bomb with the fuse too short: the violence multiplied.

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The massacres take place with total impunity in Michoacán, a state that does not reach five million inhabitants, but in whose limits some of the most gloomy records in Mexico are accumulated. It is one of the regions with the most murders: on average, seven people are executed per day — from January to October 2021 alone, 2,234 homicides have been registered, according to The Sun of Morelia—. Since 1964, 4,242 people have disappeared according to official data, but the reality becomes more serious when one takes into account that of them, 952 have occurred in the last year.

Its inhabitants have been forced to get used to doses of extreme violence in a territory where the arm of the State does not reach. Killings, bodies abandoned in the gutters or hanging from bridges, institutional offices leveled with Molotov cocktails or kidnapped professional basketball players – although in this case, he later turned up alive and tied a tree – are just some of the latest episodes. And in the background, always omnipresent, the CJNG, with an increasing firepower and no fear of showing off it with total impunity.

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