At least 10 dead as vig­i­lantes clash in Mex­ico

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY LETI­CIA PINEDA

A self-de­fense mili­tia was at­tacked by a ri­val fac­tion in south­ern Mex­ico on Satur­day leav­ing at least 10 peo­ple dead, wit­nesses said, amid ten­sions in the re­gion on the eve of elec­tions.

While the blood­shed in the vil­lage of Xo­lapa did not ap­pear linked to Sun­day’s con­gres­sional, gu­ber­na­to­rial and mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions, it oc­curred in a state plagued by vi­o­lence and protests ahead of the vote.

Ra­mon Navar­rete, pres­i­dent of the Guer­rero state Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion, said his agency had seen 10 bod­ies and that it was ver­i­fy­ing re­ports of three more dead.

A state gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, said the death toll could rise to 16 in the vil­lage of some 500 peo­ple north of the Pa­cific re­sort of Aca­pulco.

A group from the “com­mu­nity po­lice” was meet­ing in a house used as a head­quar­ters when eight car­loads of gun­men ar­rived and opened fire on those in­side, wit­nesses said.

AFP jour­nal­ists saw eight bod­ies.

Among them was a man cov­ered in blood with a bul­let wound to the head, still ly­ing in­side the house when AFP re­porters ar­rived af­ter the attack. Pools of blood were seen in­side and out­side the home.

Rel­a­tives of the other vic­tims brought them to their homes to lie in wake.

In an adobe home with a tin roof and dirt floor, three wid­ows and their chil­dren wept over the bod­ies of an older man and his two sons.

A farmer said he was about to have din­ner with his fam­ily when the shoot­ing erupted across his house and lasted around 20 min­utes.

“We shut the door and dropped to the floor. We were afraid they would hear the chil­dren cry­ing and come kill us,” said the man, who de­clined to give his name.

A brother-in-law of one of the dead men said the vic­tims were shot in the back or were fin­ished off ex­e­cu­tion-style.

The state gov­ern­ment said in a state­ment that the shootout in­volved ri­val fac­tions of the United Front for Se­cu­rity and Devel­op­ment in Guer­rero State (FUSDEG).

The pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice is in­ves­ti­gat­ing how many peo­ple were killed, the state­ment said, adding that the group “pre­sum­ably has a dis­pute over ter­ri­tory in the Aca­pulco-Chilpancingo cor­ri­dor.”

Elec­toral Ten­sions

Self-de­fense forces are legal in Guer­rero’s in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, where they are al­lowed to ap­ply their cus­toms for law and or­der.

The FUSDEG is among the new vig­i­lante forces that emerged in Guer­rero two years ago to com­bat mur­ders, extortion and kid­nap­pings in the re­gion.

Satur­day’s shootout took place de­spite a spe­cial fed­eral po­lice and mil­i­tary de­ploy­ment to pro­tect the elec­tions, es­pe­cially in Guer­rero and neigh­bor­ing Oax­aca.

In both states, as well as Chi­a­pas, rad­i­cal teach­ers have ran­sacked of­fices of po­lit­i­cal par­ties, burned bal­lots and clashed with po­lice while vow­ing to block Sun­day’s vote.

While protests are the main con­cern in Oax­aca, Guer­rero is one of the coun­try’s most vi­o­lent states, with sev­eral drug gangs bat­tling for ter­ri­tory and self-de­fense forces pro­tect­ing their com­mu­ni­ties.

In May, a may­oral can­di­date was mur­dered in the town of Chi­lapa, where two gangs are fight­ing for con­trol of drug routes. A woman eye­ing the mayor’s of­fice else­where was killed in March.

For­mer Aca­pulco mayor Luis Wal­ton, who is run­ning for gover­nor, said sev­eral armed men pointed their guns at his cam­paign con­voy in April and barred him from en­ter­ing Chi­lapa.

Else­where on Satur­day, at least seven sup­port­ers of the rul­ing In­sti­tu­tional Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Party were wounded when com­mu­nity po­lice fired at them in Xochist­lahuaca, au­thor­i­ties said.

In Tixtla, also in Guer­rero, gun­men stopped two elec­tion of­fi­cials and stole some 6,600 bal­lots from them.

Tixtla is home to the teacher train­ing col­lege of 43 stu­dents who were ab­ducted by po­lice and al­legedly slaugh­tered by a drug gang last year. Their rel­a­tives also want to block the vote.

AP

A man stands next to the bod­ies of three men who died af­ter a clash broke out be­tween ri­val fac­tions within a self-de­fense group in the town of Xo­lapa, in the state of Guer­rero, Mex­ico on Satur­day, June 6.

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