“State of exception” in Michoacán

On July 18, agents of Mexico’s Prosecutor General of the Republic (PGR) detained 10 municipal police officers from Arteaga, Michoacán, in the torture and slaying of 12 federal agents whose bodies were found dumped along a highway. Prosecutors also charged a former mayor of the town of La Huacana, where the mutilated bodies were found July 13 piled beside a road along with warning notes. Four bodies showing signs of torture were dumped at the same spot in June. A man claiming to be Servando Gómez, leader of La Familia cartel, called a local TV station last week and said he was attacking government forces simply to defend his followers’ families and friends. (AP, July 19; Milenio, July 18)

Michoacán: a “totalitarian state”?
Some 5,500 federal police and army troops have been deployed to Michoacán to combat La Familia—a particularly violent cartel whose members study a “special Bible” and claim to be evangelical Christians. The bloc of the left-opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) in the Mexican Senate has issued a statement denouncing what it calls the illegal and unconstitutional “occupation” of Michoacán. The statement charged that Presient Felipe Calderón is attempting to “debilitate” the administration of the state’s PRD governor, Leonel Godoy Rangel. In its own statement, the PRD’s National Political Commission charged that there is a “state of exception” in Michoacán, and that the federal government is attempting to impose a “totalitarian state” there. (El Universal, The Telegraph, June 19; La Jornada, July 18)

The Catholic church meanwhile denounced death threats that three bishops and various priests have received in Michoacán after speaking out against narco-violence and corruption. The Archdiocese of Mexico said it is not seeking special protection for the threatened clergy, but supports the use of the military to combat the cartels. “There is no way to attack the narcotraffic other than with the army,” said spokesman Hugo Valdemar. He also rejected calls from La Familia for direct talks with the federal government. For the Catholic church, said Valdemar, “there is a clear doctrinal principle: there can be no dialogue with evil.” (El Universal, July 19)

“Talibanization” of Mexican drug war
The call for talks with the government came when reputed Familia kingpin Servando Gómez Martínez AKA “La Tuta” called in the Voice and Solution local TV program in Michoacán, saying: “We want President Felipe Calderón to know that we are not his enemies. We are open to dialogue.”

The Michoacán escalation has raised the specter of an all-out narco-insurrection in Mexico of the kind that has ravaged Colombia and Afghanistan. “This is a new phase in the drug war,” said Samuel González, a former Mexican drug czar and now a critic of Calderón’s militarized strategy. “This is the Talibanization of the conflict.” (The Guardian, July 19)

Meanwhile, gunmen killed five patrons at the fashionable Amsterdam bar in Ciudad Juárez July 17. The Defense Secretariat said two gunmen were killed in separate attacks on soldiers in Guerrero and Tamaulipas states. In Tabasco, federal prosecutors issued arrest warrants for seven police officers suspected of working for the Gulf Cartel. (AP, July 18)

See our last post on Mexico’s drug war.

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