The following article by Patricia Mayorga, The Tarahumara Mountains: The Narco Tales of Terror, is republished here with permission from borderlandbeat.com. It’s worth noting that Mexico’s constitution protects its citizens’ right to keep and bear arms. Only not so much.
Chihuahua, Chih. 7-27-2012 (apro). – Stories of terror in Guadalupe y Calvo Municipality, located in the Tarahumara Mountains, repeat themselves day after day, without municipal, state or federal authorities doing anything about it. In the community of Ojito, for example, an armed group last Wednesday, July 26, executed a young man, 27 years of age. The victim, Saul Martinez Rodriguez, was decapitated in front of his relatives . . .
Before they cut his throat, the murderers made a 16 inch cut on his chest. Hypovolemic shock was the cause of death, according to the Southern Zone Attorney general’s office.
In Guadalupe y Calvo violence is the daily bread. The last week this past June, the armed group that controls this administrative government center stripped municipal police agents of their weapons and demanded 10,000 pesos for their return. Not satisfied with that action, on the 29th an armed group slit open a man’s throat in front of the hospital.
In an interview, the mayor Jose Ruben Gutierrez Lorea admitted there are violent incidents in his area, but it’s no different than what is happening in other parts of the country, he said.
On election day, this past Sunday, July 1, members of a crime group threatened officials in a voting location in the community of Tohayana, and almost three months before election day, 34 men were murdered in that area.
Gutierrez Acosta (Lorea) said he became aware that something had happened in Tohayana, but he did not admit there were murders: “Yeah, they said there was a fight over there, but that’s more than a month ago. There’s not even that many people there any more, most of them have gone over to a town in the other state (Sinaloa), right now there’s about two families left, that’s what they say.”
He assured (us) that the Army patrols the area and it’s gotten more peaceful, although the locals have a different opinion . Fear has forced the people in the community to lock themselves in their homes every day, and on weekends they prefer to get out of Guadalupe y Calvo. In the last few months, the State Human Rights Commission (CEDH) has insisted that (authorities) need to investigate what’s happening in that municipality, which borders the State of Sinaloa.
On several occasions, the CEDH inspector/visitor for Parral, Victor Horta Martinez, has requested that municipal police officers be provided weapons, but up to now the local authorities have not responded. There are 60 officers working three shifts in the municipality, and a few more “sectionals” who work other areas..
CEDH President, Jose Luis Armendariz Gonzalez, admits that the violence in the municipality has increased and the rage has become “a natural thing.” Criminal groups, he says, are constantly fighting in the towns, but it’s difficult to report homicides or disappearances because the criminals themselves carry the victims off, for several reasons. They don’t want to draw the attention of law enforcement agencies, he says, so they can keep on acting with impunity without the Army or the state and federal police feeling the need to strengthen patrols.
One of the members of the military who has worked in that area, located in the south of Chihuahua, assures (us) that, while [the Army] has managed to seize drugs and weapons, and arrest criminals, his work –he declares– is almost like that of a street sweeper; “it’s as if you’re sweeping and somebody is coming behind you throwing more trash.”
He points out that drug trafficking is part of the inhabitants’ daily life. For example, he illustrates, indigenous women and children are hired to work planting and harvesting opium poppies (amapola) because they are skilled laborers for that type of crop, same as with apples, chile, onions, etc. Indigenous men take on the heavier work, such as harvesting marijuana, which is just another job for them since they don’t get involved in organized crime because they are “nomads”. They’re not used to working for established businesses, so they go from job to job, from season to season.
At the municipality, the local area’s government center, the inhabitants have turned their homes into “tanquetas” (light armored vehicles) and live with the uncertainty that at any moment and at any hour, they will see armed men, with or without hoods, come to fight with each other or with the townspeople.
On weekends, teachers, medical personnel and residents leave the town, because the violence gets worse on those days.
“When we return, we find out there have been murders, abductions (levantamientos), kidnappings. Ransom demands are made in millions of pesos, generally 5 million pesos. People work hard to get the money together, it’s very common for them to work the gum opium (la goma); they sell it and resell it and get the money,” explains one of the town’s school teachers.
People get together early in the day and behind closed doors to celebrate birthdays. “There’s so much fear, that you lock the door, and if somebody knocks you don’t open the door or ask who it is until you hear the voice of whoever is knocking. Or, if they come to visit, they have to call ahead by phone to warn you. Schools are always locked up, kids only go out for recess, and they don’t leave until their parents come (for them). Only a few are allowed to leave by themselves because they live close by,” he emphasizes.
According to the teacher, more than half of the students in one of the grade schools are orphaned of either a mother or father. In fact, there are class groups in which out of 23 students, 18 are orphans, since women are also murdered because they’re the partners of men involved with criminal groups, he points out.
In Guadalupe y Calvo, the indigenous community, almost half of the population, is of Tepehuan ethnicity. There’s a Catholic shelter that many of those indigenous people come to, used also by some mestizo (mixed blood) community members. In that shelter they treat young girls who have been raped, abused, abandoned or mistreated, and who are suffering psychological aftereffects. The shelter is operated full time and is financed by a sponsor and by the Chihuahua Business Foundation, but the workers are from the community, teachers and doctors.
“It’s worth staying here because you see that you are making a difference, that you can do something for the children,” says the teacher being interviewed.
“Everyone knows who sells and who uses (marijuana). The problem right now is that supposedly the people that had always been here belonged to El Chapo. About a year and a half or two years ago, they arrested a man they called El Mochomo, he’s still in jail, and because they haven’t gotten him out his people turned on him and are killing the El Chapo (Joaquin Guzman Loera) people,” he says.
He recalls the massacre that took place three months ago in Tohayana, that, in fact, was not reported in the media. After they killed them, he adds, they (the killers) sent the town a warning: if you don’t settle down, there will be more deaths. Last Sunday, (July) 22nd, they killed six, and five on Wednesday, the 25th, also in the municipal government center.
“The deaths are very bloody, they torture them, decapitate them, cut them into pieces. You generally hear more than a hundred shots, sometimes (the shootouts) don’t last long in (terms of) hours, but they are more frequent. To get to El Vergel, for example, you have to go through Guadalupe y Calvo, and the people over there belong to another criminal group, so when they pass through here to get there, there’s always a shootout.”
The coordinator of the Chihuahua Institute for Adult Education in that area, Hector Jauregui, ran over a man a month ago in the municipality. The professor himself took the wounded man to the hospital but he died a few hours later.
The dead man was the father of one of the town’s sicarios (killers for hire), who forced the police to arrest the driver and hand him over to him.
“It was so blatant! They killed him in front of many witnesses who heard him say, when they were about to kill him, not to do this because he had a family,” recalls the teacher.
The CEDH got a complaint on that case and Inspector Victor Manuel Horta let it be known that, by order of the State Attorney General, any official who travels to Guadalupe y Calvo must travel with bodyguards, because so many of them have been murdered these last few months.
The Southern Zone prosecutor, David Flores Carrete, pointed out that the actions of the Municipal Public Safety Directorate in Guadalupe y Calvo cast doubt on the job they are doing.
In the municipality, the center of local government, local residents identify three pickup trucks that frequently drive through the place as (belonging to) a group that recently came from Sinaloa. They travel with hoods on, and wear military clothing and carry AK-47s (cuernos).
“They’re young, and some of them go around with their faces uncovered all the time. Before, you knew who the bad guys were, you know who sells and uses drugs, but these days they don’t respect anybody, everything has become bloodier,” emphasizes the interviewee.
They flee for safety reasons
Dozens of doctors and nurses in the municipality have fled in the last year and a half because they were personally affected by the violence. Since 2010, the doctors at the regional Department of Health hospital have lived moments of terror when they’ve had to treat victims wounded by gunfire who belong to one group or another. For example, a married couple, both doctors– he a pediatrician and she, an internist– had to leave the hospital three months ago because one of them was attacked on the road to El Ocote, and they took their daughter away from the place because they received kidnapping threats. They asked for a transfer because of the situation with their daughter, but they were given only six months to take care of their situation.
The majority of the doctors who arrive there do it as part of their social service or internship, and when that (assignment) is over, they decide to remain there because they see the needs and goodness of the local people, who need them. However, the violence has forced them to leave, even those with 10 or 20 years on the job. The doctors are from Puebla, Guerrero, Baja California, Distrito Federal (D.F.), Sonora and Chiapas, Jalisco and Chihuahua.
“Nobody wants to move to the mountains any more,” say two doctors who left the community. One left the hospital a year and a half ago, the other a few months ago. According to the doctors, on at least three occasions armed groups came into the hospital looking for a patient to murder him.
In December, 2010, at 1:00 in the morning, individuals came and asked a nurse about a patient. When she pointed him out, they stabbed him. When the killers came out of the hospital room, the nurse came face to face with them. They were young men between 18 and 20 years old, and they threatened her with the knife.
A week later, on New Year’s Eve, an armed group came into the hospital. A nurse on duty was intercepted and threatened by the “relatives” of a victim of one of the patients and forced to tell them where he was. They took the patient away and murdered him about a half mile from the hospital. The nurse was transferred for six months to a hospital in the capital city to be treated for post traumatic stress. At the end of that period, she asked not to return because there were threats against her.
The Health Workers Syndicate asked her not to file criminal charges.
On another occasion, at the beginning of 2011, a person wounded by gunfire arrived at the hospital, and his wife asked for protection because he could not be transported elsewhere. Hospital staff told them they could not guarantee his safety.
“The family brought a lot of armed people, they stayed in the hospital for 36 hours. It was a very tense situation. There were about eight people in the hall ways, and there were more in the parking area and on the wall (around the hospital),” recalls one of the female doctors.
Doctors and nurses had to deal with the situation during that time. The hospital director came in several hours later “and told the armed men, ‘behave yourselves, because later the doctors will not want to treat you.'”
The Army came after the men had already left. They questioned the doctors, asked to talk with the patient and the hospital director. “The problem is that there were rumors that the doctors had notified the Army, and we were afraid of reprisals,” he said.
On September 12, 2011, another armed group came into the hospital and murdered a 33-year old man who had just been brought in with bullet wounds. The armed men followed him into the emergency room, killed him and left. Hospital staff were in shock, but there were no reassignments.
This past May 19th, the Guadalupe y Calvo chief of public safety, Eleazar Salas Martinez, was murdered. That afternoon, he left the office accompanied by one of his police agents and went to a place where he had an appointment, according to the testimony of the police officer, who survived.
When they got to a ranch house, several armed men wearing hoods picked them up, blindfolded them with adhesive tape and took them to an uninhabited area. The police officer testified that he heard several shots and, after a few minutes, he removed the blindfold and saw there was nobody around.
The chief was 36 years old and left infant children. He had no life insurance or social security, nor did he sign payroll receipts, and he was listed with the City Council as earning very low wages. His wife will receive support from the Trust for Care of Victims of Violence. Nothing more. Last week, they murdered the police officer who survived that attack. He was with his brother and a nephew, who were also murdered.
The residents of Guadalupe y Calvo believe that it was that same police officer who set his chief up to be murdered.