Crime & Justice

Gang besieges indigenous communities in southern Mexico

Chilpancingo, Mexico, Jun 21 (EFE).- Representatives of 23 Nahua indigenous communities in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero held a press conference Tuesday to demand help in repulsing an offensive by a criminal organization armed with military-grade weapons.

As if to underline the point, the venue of the news conference came under attack as the event was concluding, forcing reporters to take cover as members of the community militias fired back at assailants shooting from a nearby hill.

Nobody was hurt in the exchange of gunfire.

The spokesman for the Emiliano Zapata Indigenous and Popular Council of Guerrero, Jesus Placido Galindo, said that the latest wave of violence by Los Ardillos (The Squirrels) began last Friday after the withdrawal of a National Guard unit that had been stationed in the municipality of Chilapa de Alvarez.

The gang’s gunmen are dug-in on high ground surrounding the targeted villages and towns, Galindo said, accompanied by community elders and dozens of residents, many of them wearing masks to conceal their faces.

He said that thanks to the efforts of the militias, there have been no fatalities, though two people were wounded.

Some at the press conference said that Los Ardillos are being protected by people in power.

“What we demand is justice. Until this group is stopped, they will continue attacking us. You can deploy the National Guard, you can deploy the police here as much as you want – they continue operating, they have the means,” Galindo said.

The army could put a stop to the terror campaign of Los Ardillos, he said, adding that officials’ decision to turn a deaf ear to the pleas of the Nahuas makes it “very clear that they are accomplices.”

Los Ardillos are trying to take control of the communities and leave residents with a choice between working for the gang or being killed, Galindo said.

Over the last seven years, Los Ardillos have killed 18 people and abducted 19 others and officials, including federal Public Safety Secretary Alejandro Encinas have failed to act on information provided by the Nahuas, Galindo said.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is due to visit the affected area at the end of this week. EFE fmc/dr

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