ZACATECAS, MEXICO (July 26, 2021).- When they heard gunfire in the valley, residents locked their doors and cowered inside their homes. Some 200 armed men had just looted a gas station, according to a witness, and the shooting would continue for hours as an equal number from an opposing group confronted them.
The authorities didn’t arrive until the next day. When they did, they found 18 bodies in San Juan Capistrano, a small community in Valparaíso, Zacatecas. The north-central Mexican state holds strategic importance for drugs being shipped to the United States. Mexico’s two strongest cartels — Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation — are locked in a battle for control.
One month after the June 24 killings, there have been no arrests. The military has sent reinforcements, but killings continue across Zacatecas: a doctor here, a police officer there, a family hacked to pieces, eight killed at a party, two girls shot along with their parents.
In a country that has suffered more than a decade of violence at the hands of powerful drug cartels, the situation in Zacatecas, as well as violence-plagued states like Michoacán and Tamaulipas, shows that neither the head-on drug war launched by former President Felipe Calderón in 2006, nor the softer “hugs not bullets” approach of current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have managed to break Mexico’s cycle of violence.
Zacatecas’ 746 murders in the first half of the year, compared to 1,065 for all of 2020, give it the highest murder rate per 100,000 residents in the country through June, according to the Mexican government.
“The day they (soldiers) leave, we know from experience that quickly the criminal groups are going to fight over territory,” said Eleuterio Ramos, Valparaíso’s worried mayor.
What makes Zacatecas worth fighting for is its location. It borders eight other states. Among other things, the cartels are battling to control the most lucrative drug: fentanyl. Zacatecas sits between the drug’s production and its consumers.
Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS
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