Rule of law seems to have completely broken down in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, with the back-country really run by competing murderous narco-gangs. On Nov. 25, a Mixed Operations force of army and state police troops discovered over 30 bodies buried in mass graves in the municipality of Zitlala, in the rugged highlands where hidden canyons produce copious crops of opium and cannabis. The remains—including 32 corpses and nine severed heads—were found in a series of 20 hidden graves. Several men were detained, and cars and weapons seized. Such finds have become alarmingly common in Mexico in recent years, and are dubbed "narco-fosas" (narco-graves).
Fears that Mexico's controversial anti-narco "community police" groups could themselves be co-opted by the warring cartels appear to be vindicated by recent grim events in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Two rival "community police" networks are struggling for control of the main road linking Acapulco on the Pacific with the inland state capital Chilpancingo—dubbed the "heroin highway," as it is a main artery for delivering the illicit product of the mountains to exit-ports on the coast. Over the past weeks, over a score have been killed in fighting between the Union of Pueblos and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG) and the United Front for the Security and Development of the State of Guerrero (FUSDEG), according to newspaper Milenio.
Mexico's imprisoned top drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán came another step closer to extradition Oct. 20 when a Mexican federal judge in Ciudad Juárez found that the process has been legally sound and turned down five requests for an amparo (or injunction) to halt it. Extradition to face criminal charges in the United States had been approved in May, but suspended later that month by a higher court in Mexico City. The suspension was inteneded to allow the lower court to hear arguments by Guzmán's lawyers that extradition would be unconstitutional. These arguments have now been rejected. Chapo's lawyers were given 10 days to file an appeal.
The former police chief of Iguala, the Mexican city where 43 college students disappeared in 2014, was finally apprehended after two years as a fugitive, officials announced Oct. 21. Felipe Flores was arrested while visiting his wife in Iguala, National Security Commissioner Renato Sales told a press conference. Mexico's Prosecutor General Arely Gómez hailed Flores' capture, stating on Twitter that it would allow investigators to get "a fundamental statement to clear up the events."
A growing wave of paramilitary terror is reported from the remote and rugged Sierra Tarahumara in northern Mexico's Chihuahua state—the country's prime opium and cannabis cultivation zone. Local residents at the hamlet of El Largo Maderal, in the backwoods of Madera municipality, on Oct. 14 issued an urgent alert to the authorities and media over ongoing attacks by narco-gunmen, leaving at least two campesinos dead over the past weeks. The Chihuahua state prosecutor, or Fiscalía General, meanwhile reported a highway attack at nearby Rancho Las Pomas, where a local narco-jefe identified only as "El Nacho" was killed along with two henchmen—their car shot up and then set aflame.
Yaqui indigenous communities on opposite sides over a proposed gas pipeline through Mexico's Sonora state clashed Oct. 21, leaving at least one dead by gunfire. The confrontation involved close to 300 people from the neighboring communities of Loma de Bácum (Bácum municipality) and Loma de Guámuchil (Cajeme). The former community is opposed to the pipeline project, while the latter is in favor. Bácum community leaders won an amparo (injunction) against the pipeline, which resulted in temporary suspension of construction in the area, and Bácum residents set up a protest camp at the idled construction site. The clash erupted when company workers arrived to resume construction—allegedly in violation of the amparo, and with the support of Guámuchil leaders and local politicians. Accounts are unlcear as to which side the fatality was on, but 13 vehicles belonging to Bácum residents were torched. There were also several injuries, and reports of a second death still not acknowledged by state authorities. The battle lasted three hours before a mixed force of state and federal police backed up by army troops intervened.
Tomás Zerón de Lucio, the head of Mexico's Criminal Investigations Agency, turned in his resignation to the prosecutor general's office on Sept. 14—amid an internal inquiry into his handling of the case of 43 college students who disappeared nearly two years ago. The undergraduate students, from Ayotzinapa town in Guerrero state, are said to have been abducted by corrupt local police and turned over to a murderous narco-gang—but surviving kin and their supporters increasingly charge Mexico's government with a cover-up in the case.
Communal farmers from the pueblo of San Pedro Apatlaco in Mexico's Morelos state clashed Aug. 30 with federal riot police at a protest over construction of an aqueduct bringing water to a new gas-fired power plant under construction at nearby Huexca, Yecapixtla municipality. The clash took place as police tried to clear a bridge the protesters were occupying, linking the municipalities of Cuautla and Ayala through Apatlaco pueblo (which lies in Ayala). The farmers were attempting to bar a crew from the Federal Electric Commission (CFE) from blocking off a common area long used by residents for the aqueduct right-of-way. Troops from the new federal anti-riot force, the Unified Command (Mando Unico), were brought in to clear the bridge. Some 15 protesters were detained, with injuries reported on both sides. Opponents say the aqueduct will pass through more than 100 eijidos (agricultural collectives) and communcal lands, and that the affected communities were not consulted. There were similar protests two years ago over construction of the gas pipeline feeding the plant, part of the Morelos Integral Project (PIM). (El Sol de Cuautla, Diario de Morelos, La Jornada, Educa, Aug. 31; La Unión de Morelos, Excelsior, Aug. 30)