Starting with Los Zetas and continuing with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), the municipality of Tanhuato, in Michoacán, where federal forces clashed with criminals on Friday May 22nd, has served as a refuge for members of organized crime operating in this state. Today it is a disputed territory and seat of the ranch where 42 died during a gunfight 3 days ago.
Two hours away from Morelia, the state capital, this municipality is located on the Vista Hermosa – Yurécuaro corridor used by organized crime to store and move drugs to Jalisco, Michoacán and Colima. Therefore, it is a key region for drug traffickers.
Federal Police explained that after self-defense groups emerged in the town of Aguililla, Michoacán, the Knights Templar cartel withdrew its presence near the boundary with Jalisco. The CJNG took advantage of this and gradually took over municipalities of Michoacán near Jalisco, a state where methamphetamine laboratories have been found and opium poppy is grown.
Authorities say that Tanhuato is used as a passageway for drug remittances and is key for the surveillance of U.S. bound drugs. It is also used to keep kidnap victims in safe houses.
In recent years local authorities have reported killings and shootouts between organized crime groups to gain control of the town.
In March 2014, Gustavo Garibay, mayor of Tanhuato, was killed by unknown persons as he left his home to go to work. Several people have been arrested for this murder, but so far the crime has not been clarified.
Also in November 2013 almost 60 corpses were found in mass graves in the municipality of La Barca, Jalisco, near Michoacán. The graves were found after two federal police officers who investigated drug cartels operating in the region were kidnapped.
Moreover, 25 municipal police officers were arrested for collaborating with criminal organizations.
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