MEXICO CITY (AP) — Residents of a town where drug cartels are waging a war with each other for control of territory in Mexico said soldiers fired on them Saturday during a clash in the western state of Michoacán.
The state police denied that the government was responsible for these acts of violence. José Alfredo Ortega, chief of the state police, said the soldiers were retreating when they were shot at from another direction, and then someone detonated an explosive device.
The confrontation occurred in an area where the Jalisco Cartel is waging a bloody war for control of territories against criminal groups from Michoacán. The parties have used ditches, long-distance shooters, drone-dropped bombs and armored vehicles in an artisanal fashion against each other.
Clashes between criminal gangs affect civilians with increasing frequency.
Protesters from the town of Lomas Blancas, controlled by the Jalisco Cartel, were involved in the incident. Locals are furious that the government’s policy benefits the local Los Viagras cartel in Michoacán.
Mexican soldiers find themselves in a difficult position in Michoacán. The government’s strategy has been to repel the attempts of the Jalisco Cartel to expand in Michoacán, but it does little or nothing against Los Viagras, which installs checkpoints to extort money from the inhabitants.
Soldiers appear to have been ordered to keep rival cartels apart, but this has angered residents of towns dominated by the Jalisco Cartel, such as Loma Blanca, because the military has failed to curb Los Viagras’ activities.
The protesters released a video in which they are seen clashing with the soldiers, shoving, shouting and throwing stones.
In the video you can hear some detonations, but apparently they were from tear gas canisters or warning shots.
Ortega said that from the top of a nearby hill “criminals were shooting.” Two soldiers were injured and two suspects were arrested, Ortega’s office said in a statement.
However, the organizer of the protest, José Francisco Helizondo, said that several demonstrators were injured by gunshots. One of the injured shows in a video what appears to be shrapnel or shotgun pellets in his leg.
Ortega said someone detonated an explosive device that he said may have caused the injuries.
The Defense Secretary did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the incident.
Lemon and cattle producers have been forced to pay a fee to Viagras to allow the exit and entry of merchandise.
The protesters, who have staged other clashes with the soldiers before, demand that the army open the roads and act with the same force against both cartels.