21 | AGO | 2019
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Consuelo Loera, mother of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, has a big house in La Tuna, one of the 530 communities of Badiraguato. (Photo: Archive / EL UNIVERSAL)

War between cartels empties the Golden Triangle

22/06/2016
13:04
Amalia Escobar / Corresponsal
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Initially the most affected communities were Arroyo Seco, La Tuna and La Palma, but violence soon spread to Huixiopa, La Vainilla and San José del Llano.

The Golden Triangle is desolate. The exodus of families due to the turf war among rival drug cartels vying for control of marijuana and poppy plantations has continued over the last week, emptying the area located between Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango, cradle of drug producers and exporters.

Consuelo Loera, mother of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel who is in the process of being extradited to the United States, has a big house in La Tuna, one of the 530 communities of Badiraguato.

Neighbors say her house was attacked by Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, known as “El Chapo Isidro” and representative of the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel. Some say they were looking for Aureliano Guzmán Loera, brother of "El Chapo" who was ambushed last December and managed to escape alive.

The war between "the Chapos" worsened after June 5 elections. Masked men commanded by Isidro, listed since 2014 by the U.S. Treasury Department under the Kingpin Act, attacked members of the Sinaloa cartel, residents of other communities said.

Mrs. Consuelo Loera was taken to a safe place in a small airplane on June 12, while other relatives of El Chapo Guzmán were taken to Durango.

Open war

There is a declaration of open war. Villagers are afraid and tension is growing among the few people left in the more than 300 locations. Some are virtually empty; the exodus of displaced continues a week after the most recent clashes.

At the Golden Triangle there is no authority; hundreds of people dressed as civilians patrol the highway with communication radios riding motorcycles, ATVs and SUVs from Badiraguato to halfway the road leading to the Golden Triangle. All guard the entrance to the area.

Men dressed in black watch the passing vehicles from the top of the hills. It is not clear who they work for.

At the Golden Triangle there is no internet. Some hills are set on fire as a signal. We saw smoke in at least six of them. On a plateau between hills of Santiago de Caballeros several mausoleums are part of the landscape.

People continue to leave their communities. Villagers have been warned that they must leave the region because another clash is expected like the one that happened on June 11, when seven gunmen were reportedly killed.

The Golden Triangle is the cradle of famous drug traffickers such as Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, Juan José Esparragoza “El Azul” and Rafael Caro Quintero and others.

Many of the inhabitants of Badiraguato have never dared to go to the Golden Triangle. "It's hell," they say.

Initially the most affected communities were Arroyo Seco, La Tuna and La Palma, but violence soon spread to Huixiopa, La Vainilla and San José del Llano.

Mario Valenzuela, mayor of Badiraguato, says that homes have only been abandoned in two of the 15 communities due to rumors or acts of violence.

He added that many of the 250 families that left Arroyo Seco, Huixiopa, La Palma and La Tuna have returned to their homes after learning that there has been no violence.

(With information from Javier Cabrera Martínez)

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