At least 10 dead as vigilantes clash in Mexico
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.”
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.
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.