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Michoacán Citizens Speak: Caught Between the Crossfire

Posted on

June 7, 2013

 

On April 28th, 2013, just before 5AM, a convoy of 30 trucks travelled on the Los Reyes Highway, through the town Buenavista, Tomatlán. The armed men in the trucks were members of the Knights Templar.  The people of the town became alert to possible pending trouble and begun to gather between the houses.  When the “Templarios” noticed the movement of the people, they began open fire catching the inhabitants of 40 homes  in the crossfire.  The following is the account of the nightmare, as told by residents of all ages, and their perspective of the terrifying situation that has become life in Michoacán.
“As the saying goes, I prefer to die standing, than to live on my knees.
We don’t want the Knights Templar here, we want to work freely.”
Below the video is the  narrative translated into English.
 
Caught Between the Crossfire

Narrator:

It is difficult to think that a town can rise up in arms against the town itself. Where families that had always lived together thorough out the years, are now separated by the contrast of a struggle that seems unbelievable.
It is the case of Michoacán, where government comes and goes.
Voice of Fausto Vallejo, Governor of Michoacán:
The priority in my government will be employment; to defeat delinquency, we require generating many jobs. We need Jobs for the children, but also for the parents. For me, you are top Michoacán people and we have to destine more resources for these towns.
Narrator:
Everybody and Nobody dare to direct a speech in favor of all of those that live on the line of fire, those that are cannon fodder, and those that are only remembered in times of vote harvest
At almost three months of the rise up in arms by auto defense groups in Michoacán, the municipalities of Tepalcatepec and Buenavista seem to be forgotten. With absent municipal governments, there are no more jobs in the field since according to the villagers; it does not belong to them anymore. They cannot sell their product freely
First Commander [Community Guard of Buenavista]
We qualify ourselves as an auto defense groups. Why auto defense group: Well so that we can survive, take care of our families, society in general, senior citizens, women and children. And also we want to advance; we don’t want any more injustice here in our town
Why did we rise up as an auto defense group? Because actually the government, military and federal ignored us, they sometimes helped us very little. It should be clarified that Federal Government has been helping us more every day, and also the army is putting in a little more interest in us because they see the reality we are going through
Community Guard of Apatzingán:
We are protesting on behalf of the town of Buenavista. We are against the citizens that are affecting the town of Apatzingán because those people are withholding the merchandise to the town of Apatzingán that go over there to sell.
We are people that ask for peace, we are not delinquents, you can see, we only have sticks and the other men have weapons, and that is why we are asking the government to unarmed those people.
Because I think that a person that has a goat horn, R-15 and grenade launchers is a criminal and it is not named a Community Police.”
Community Police is a person like us. We are not doing any wrong to the community of Apatzingán. The people should not think that. On the contrary, we want to take care of the people of Apatzingán.
We want peace and quiet and avoid the entrance of people that want to harm the citizens, because if we were not here, many delinquents would have entered already. We wouldn’t be able to live peacefully; people wouldn’t have been able to go out the streets, because all those people are financed by who knows which cartel.
It is true that we are withholding provisions that heads that way because the people there are not going to receive it with good intentions. These provisions that are headed that way; people want them to steal it, not to buy it to the people.
First Commander [Community Guard of Buenavista]
We allow them to pass their merchandise, everything that comes from there, we let it pass. But why do the community guards from Apatzingán, Cuatro Caminos and Francisco J. Mújica don’t let provisions pass to Buena Vista. If they are really community guards, then why do they do that, if we are from the same team? They are Knights Templar disguised as community guards. Knights Templar is who are staying in Apatzingáan, Francisco J. Mújica and Cuatro Caminos. All of them are Knight Templar.
Narrator:
The production of lemon, the main generator of resources on this zone of Tierra Caliente  is abandoned. The villagers say that they are unable to sell it anymore.
Inhabitant of La Ruana:
All the lemon packers are being threaten to get killed if they get one lemon from this zone, by orders of Nazario Moreno González aka El Chayo, the craziest of the entire world.
Interviewer:
What are the people that are not cutting doing?
Inhabitant of La Ruana:
What do we do? Look over in the state of Colima, (pointing out to one direction). If you go to Coalcoman and you see only Knights Templar. It’s like this (showing a handful) in Coalcoman.
I don’t know if the government already entered, on this side of Catalina, I don’t know if they [Knights Templar] are still there but in the days before, you could see them everywhere, as if they were real federals. We saw one of those clone Army vehicles but it was beige. It was distinguished because the clone truck had roll bars and the army doesn’t put those on their vehicles
First Commander [Community Guard of Buenavista]
The mafia of the Knight Templar has control over the packing (lemons). First, the Knight Templar sold all the products to the packing factory and then they let the peasant sell their product, their fruit, at a lower price. They would charge the lemon cutter 20 pesos daily or 100 pesos weekly
Interviewer:
How much does a cutter earn, approximately?
Answer:
They earn around 100 pesos daily.
Narrator:
Tired of working to deliver accounts to a de facto government, on February 24th, hundreds of villagers come out of their houses to demand freedom, peace and employments. Their voice which was the last thing they had left were changed for weapons. Now the towns of La Ruana, Tepalcatepec and Buena Vista look deserted. There is no other way than to survive in a struggle in a no man’s land.
Woman Speaking:
We don’t have anybody but ourselves, our bodies, our hearts. We want to work, I support myself by having an enchilada stand, and you support yourselves with the lemon, others with meat markets. Where is the government? We want a government that does not sell out and this is not about politics!
Narrator:
This fighting cost dozens of lives, now it just needs to keep counting deaths among Michoacán people.
Woman crying:
I don’t know until when this is going to keep going? They went without weapons. My husband said that they just needed, to confront them with their chest in front. [Bravely]
Inhabitant of La Ruana:
It was said that they were all community guards but it’s not true, they were not community police, they were all peasants. 32 peasants were massacred.
Interviewer:
Did you know the people that were from here?
Answer:
Yes, and we want it to be investigated. All those that were massacred in Cuatro Caminos when the governor was going to come, it was a total of 32 deaths.
Interviewer:
Why does it say here 16 [pointing to the newspaper]
Answer:
It says 16 because till that day it was 16, then the injured people died. Children that came from Guerrero that spoke dialect [native language non Spanish] died. Those children did not speak Spanish and were begging in their dialect to not be killed but still they were murdered. They massacred children, pregnant women; they did not care who they were
Narrator:
Their fighting, they say, would be until the government gives them security and stops criminal groups that extort, kill and kidnap the town
Inhabitant:
This military quarter that is here in Apatzingán is there for a reason. They are sell outs. The general that is there also is sold out. I am rural and he prohibited us to be in that riot. I tell him (pointing to a friend) he (general) says that because he is secured with the entire squad. I was born here and I am going to be buried here. I have to defend my life. Why am I going to allow them to kill me
Interviewer:
Are the people afraid?
Answer:
More than you can imagine, go ask house by house so you get an idea.
Interviewer:
What I see is that the town looks abandoned
Answer:
For the same reason, because the people are afraid to go out, you should’ve seen Monday or Sunday during daylight, you wouldn’t see a soul out, just like today. Since Sunday is like that
Interviewer:
Do you think this will keep going like this?
Answer:
Yes, as long as they don’t apprehend that crazy guy. Apparently he was going to go enter town this Monday, I went to this camp and several friends of Punta de Lago that have friends in San Blas know that they are gathered here.
There are about 20 or 30 trucks and they were going to enter on foot and were going to destroy everything, they were not going to respect anything. Houses that they get or people they get on the streets, they were going to kill them but apparently many government forces of Jalisco arrived. The government of Apatzingán is just like the governor.
Interviewer:
Will the guard abandon their weapons, if the government asked them to?
Answer:
If that person is captured, they will
Interviewer:
Not if he isn’t captured?
Answer:
We are working people; we will give up the weapons. We are not people that use arms but we had to arm ourselves for self-defense.
Narrator:
Now, they live in anxiety, the nights are not the same; their life is to live in heighten alert. They mistrust every one that behaves differently.   It is better for them to live fighting than to live at the mercy of the criminal group The Knights Templar
First Commander [Community Guard of Buenavista]
I prefer to fight for my people, my family and the entire society. We want to leave a good image of us. I prefer to die, as the saying says, I prefer to die standing than to live on my knees. We don’t want the Knights Templar here. We want to work freely
Interviewer:
If you know that they [Knight Templar] have all that armament and all those people, don’t you think that they would be able to finish off the community guards?
Answer:
They will not be able to finish us up. For that they have to finish up the whole town, La Ruana, Tepalcatepec; they have to kill all the people but that would be impossible. La Ruana and Tepalcatepec are very united.
First Commander [Community Guard of Buenavista]
What La Tuta says on the recent video, that another cartel is managing here, Cartel Jalisco. That is a vile lie. Here in Buenavista, La Ruana and Tepalcatepec, we support ourselves with the sale of corn that we have for survival. Sometimes we don’t even have anything to eat. If we were supported by a cartel, as La Tuta says, we would be much better financially speaking. In reality, we sometimes don’t even have for gasoline.
Interviewer:
In some photos, we can see that you are holding goat horns and those types of weapons, which are army exclusive
Answer:
Those weapons are not exclusive of the army and besides the army has never given us weapons. How we managed was by  selling corn, we have been buying things with the little that we gain.
Obviously we cannot fight against the Knights Templar with sling shots. They have very powerful weapons; they even have grenades and bazookas, weapons that are illegal.
Narrator:
On April 28th, a quarter to 5 am, an armed commando aboard trucks was driving on Los Reyes Highway – Buenavista. Crew members tried to connect with the caravan, coming out of the backyards of the houses at a ranch.
When the Knights Templar of the trucks realized the movement of people, they began shooting against the companions that were between the houses, leaving more than forty homes of a small town between the cross fire.
Interviewing Elderly Men
Interviewer:
How many trucks were there
Old man 1:
30
Interviewer:
What time did it happen?
Old man 1:
Around 4 or 4:30 am
Taking the interviewer to show some of the bullet holes, he keeps saying: “here it is already repaired, but you could see by the patches were the holes were. See how this is destroyed – pointing to a light meter-
Pointing out to several other holes, the old man says, Here is one, here is another one, and another one
Interviewer:
What do you do for a living?
Old man:
We are dedicated to working
Interviewer: – pointing to a bed-
Who sleeps here?
Old Man 2:
I sleep here, I was sleeping here, but my wife called me to go inside. You can see the bullet holes here and another one here. See on the wall there are other bullet holes
Interviewer:
Did you hear the tires when they were approaching or how did it happen?
Old man 2:
I went out a little before everything happened, I was sitting at the edge of the bed when the trucks came passing by very slowly, and a man that was close said“turn off the lights dumbasses” and then my wife comes and says “come inside because there’s going to be a conflict
Old man 1:
There’s another bullet hole –pointing besides the bed-.and on the pillow case where he had been lying down
Old man 2:
Come inside so you will see
Old man 1:
Look, look how it is, all around look – pointing to the ceiling- and over there in the inside also is like this – pointing to another room
Interviewer:
What do you do for a living sir?
Old man 2:
We have two cows on the corral
[They walk  to the other room and show other bullet holes on the ceiling
Inaudible speech]
She was the one that was hit on the arm
Interviewer:
You were?
Old lady:
Yes, just don’t show my face
Interviewer:
No, I’m not showing your face
Old lady:
Look just that I just took a bath and I can’t move the arm that much
Interviewing a young boy
Interviewer:
Do you live here?
Young boy:
Yes
Interviewer:
What time did it happen?
Young boy:
Around 4 am, it was 15 till 5
Interviewer:
Where were you sleeping?
Young boy:
I was sleeping in the room on the other side
Interviewer:
Who sleeps here, explain to me how it happen? – Pointing to the room in the front of the house
Young boy:
My sister sleeps here, my mom came to call her and my dad went to get me. My dad and I went to a room far back and then my dad threw me on the ground and that’s when the shooting started. Then my dad went crawling to see if my mom or my sister had been hit. Then my mom and my sister went to the back room and we were on the ground.
Interviewer:
What were you feeling, what did you do?
Young boy:
I was just lying there, scared
Interviewer:
Are you afraid that it might happen again?
Young boy:
Yes
Interviewer:
What do you tell your parents?
Young boy:
To take care of us and that it would be better if we were in Buena Vista because it is very dangerous here.
Interviewer:
You don’t want to live here anymore?
Young boy:
No
Interviewer:
Where would you like to live?
Young boy:
I would like over in Buenavista because here we sit on the main crossing. A little further than here, it is where the community guards are-[he points in the direction
Interviewer:
Do you go to school or is it suspended?
Young boy:
Yes, I go to middle school
Interviewer:
Are you having normal classes?
Young boy:
We are not having classes right now because of the teachers in this region.[the government says school closure is the result of the turbulence]
Boy’s Father
Interviewer:
Since when
Boy’s Dad:
Since last week
Boy’s Dad:
What a terrifying morning we lived, could you imagine?
Interviewer:
How long have you lived here?
Boy’s Dad:
All my life
Interviewer:
But, have you lived something like this before?
Boy’s Dad:
We have never lived through something like this; it’s something that we don’t wish for anybody.
Interviewer:
What do you think of the community police?
Boy’s Dad:
Well, I think that for us is a good thing. Personally, they have not distressed the villagers for anything; on the contrary, the people that come to mess with us are the other guys [Knight Templar]. The community police go up and down the streets and do not bother us at all. The other guys come and shoot at us.  We don’t do anything but work in the fields.
Interviewer:
What do you do for a living?
Boy’s Dad:
I plant corn to sell it; I have 2 or 3 little cows; I have some lemon trees also. We barely get something to live with, but I have permission from the people of the other side to harvest the lemon about two or three days, but can you imagine?
Interviewer:
Who gives you permission?
Boy’s Dad:
The people that give the orders, The Knights just tell the buyers to not buy anymore and that’s it. We are living very difficult times
Interviewer:
Have you thought of leaving Michoacán?
Boy’s Dad:
Sometimes I think that but there is no other place to go
Interviewer:
How do you live your nights now?
Boy’s Dad:
Well, we have been leaving at night; we have two nights that we have left to Buena Vista, feeling that any minute they could come back and what could we do? We can’t do anything with all the people that they have.
Interviewer:
About how many vehicles were there, what do you hear saying?
Boy’s Dad:
People say that there were about 20 or 30 trucks
Interviewer:
Were all of them armed?
Boy’s Dad:
Yes, they were all armed. I had the windows open and I heard the chattering and I got to see how they were jumping with the rifles, you could see the red light, the one you called laser, infrared I think it is what is called. I just got time to throw my son to the ground and my wife was over here with my daughter, so I dragged myself over her to see if they were not hit during the shooting.
It is an extremely powerless feeling, what can you do? It’s a feeling that they are going to get inside your house. That is something you don’t wish happens to anybody.
Narrator:
Children and parents fearful of living there but don’t have another option since their life is here, they say, their work, their land and their family. They have nowhere to go.  For others, however, life gives them hope, and they continue having faith.

About Doc

Spreading the word about the dangers of methamphetamine.

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