The mayor of the notoriously violent municipality of Aguililla, Michoacán, was murdered in an armed attack Thursday, while five men were killed in a gunfight in Nuevo Parangaricutiro in the same state.
Mayor César Arturo Valencia Caballero was driving his pickup truck after attending a meeting with state and federal officials when his vehicle was intercepted by armed men, according to a report by the newspaper El Economista. The Green party mayor was shot three times, twice in the chest and once in the neck. Paramedics confirmed his death upon arrival at the scene of the crime.
The attack occurred at approximately 4:15 p.m. Thursday near a soccer field in Aguililla, a municipality in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán where the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Cárteles Unidos have been engaged in a long-running turf war. The army retook control of Aguililla and neighboring municipalities a month ago, but Thursday’s attack shows that violence remains a problem.
Michoacán Governor Alfredo Ramírez Bedolla condemned Valencia’s murder in a Twitter post and said he had given instructions for a thorough investigation into the crime.
In a subsequent media interview, he described Aguililla – where CJNG leader Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes was born – as a “very complicated” area, but added that authorities had not received any reports of a threat against the mayor, who took office last September.
“We’re going to continue supporting Aguililla; the federal government and the state government are supporting a pacification plan in the area,” he said.
Local priest Gilberto Vergara warned of the risk of other mayors in the Tierra Caliente region being targeted in armed attacks. Criminal groups are no longer seen in the area due to the presence of the army, “but that doesn’t mean they’re not there,” he said.
Fifteen mayors in Michoacán and 93 across the country have been murdered since 2000, according to Rubén Salazar, director of risk analysis firm Etellekt.
Hours before Valencia was killed, a gunfight between presumed members of the CJNG and the Cárteles Unidos in and around the municipal palace of Nuevo Parangaricutiro, 100 kilometers northeast of Aguililla, left five men dead. The latter group fired weapons from armored vehicles colloquially known as monstruos (monsters).
The Michoacán Attorney General’s Office (FGE) reported the deaths and also said that 32 people in possession of firearms were arrested.
The FGE said in a statement that state police, the National Guard and the army responded to the confrontation, which began around 8:00 a.m. Thursday in the town of Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro, 14 kilometers west of Uruapan.
It said that a criminal group – it didn’t specify which – had taken control of the municipal palace before the clash occurred. Security forces seized a total of 43 firearms, 15 explosive devices and tactical equipment, the FGE said.
“Investigations are continuing in order to determine the circumstances in which the events occurred,” it said.