Gunmen massacred 11 people at a bar in Guanajuato

Guanajuato, located in central Mexico, has become the most violent state in the country

Gunmen massacred 11 people at a bar in Guanajuato
Turf wars between cartels have resulted in a surge in crime and violence in Guanajuato - Photo: Diego Costa/CUARTOSCURO.COM
English 28/09/2020 11:36 Newsroom & Agencies Guanajuato AP Actualizada 11:45

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Gunmen killed 11 people, including four women, early Sunday in a bar in Guanajuato, the most violent state in Mexico. 

State prosecutors said the bodies were found at a bar called “La Cabaña del Toro,” located near the town of Jaral del Progreso. The area is near the border with Michoacán, which has been a point of incursion for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which wants to take over Guanajuato.

Local media reported the four dead women may have been employed as dancers at the bar, located on the side of a highway. There was no immediate information on a possible motive in the attack, but it bore the signs of a drug gang killing.

Guanajuato has been the most violent state in Mexico in recent years; however, authorities had hoped the arrest of “El Marro,” the leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel on August 2, would put an end to violence.

The former leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel, José Antonio Yépez Ortíz, had long fought a bloody turf war with the CJNG, and authorities blamed him for much of the violence in the industrial and farming state.

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While murders across the state dropped slightly to 339 in August from 403 in July, they may be rebounding in September as gang members fight to fill the vacuum left by Yépez Ortiz’s detention.

During the past weekend, Guanajuato registered a series of violent attacks and 39 deaths. Days ago, gunmen attacked a restaurant in Celaya and also killed a police officer.

Seven cartels fight to control Guanajuato

Several drug cartels have engaged in a turf war to control Guanajuato, a state once controlled by José Antonio Yépez, aka “El Marro,” the former leader of the bloody Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel. 
 
According to security experts, the war to control the territory and the financial crisis at criminal organizations have fueled massacres and extortion.
 
The Intelligence Department at the local Attorney General’s Office identified at least seven criminal groups operating Guanajuato: Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, Cárteles Unidos, La Nueva Familia Michoacana, Gulf Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel, and Unión León.
 
Jessica María Vega Zayas, a researcher at the University of Guanajuato, said the state is experiencing a “lot of tension” as a result of the war between the CJNG and what is left of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, as well as feuds with small crime groups to control the territories previously controlled by “El Marro.”
 
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“El Marro” is accused of fuel theft and trafficking, as well as extortion, drug trafficking, and homicide. Until his arrest on August 2, Yépez Ortiz engaged in a deadly turf war against the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
 
During the first 40 days after his arrest, the state registered 448 homicides, around 11 per day. Between January and July 2020, around 20 people were murdered every day. Furthermore, a report released by Executive Secretariat under the National Public Security System (SESNSP) showed Mexicans reported 4,242 homicides and 11 extortions between January and July 2020.
 
In a report issued by the Guanajuato Congress in June, the local Security Minister, Alvar Cabeza de Vaca, said 91% of the homicides registered in the state were the result of a turf war between drug cartels. Moreover, the crimes are also linked to drug trafficking and fuel theft.

Extortions will continue

Vega Zayas believes violent crimes and extortions will continue for some time. Furthermore, criminal organizations use extortion as a source of income to fund their turf wars.
 
According to the expert, “now extortions will continue in Celaya, Salamanca, Irapuato, and Silao, which are territories previously controlled by the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel. [Extortions] will reach San Miguel de Allende and León, where deaths and disappearances will continue.”
 
Thirteen months after a mass shutdown of tortilla shops in Celaya due to extortion, the phenomenon repeated in markets located in Tomasa Esteves and Barahona, in Salamanca, where shopkeepers halted activities on September 7.
 
A shopkeeper said two criminal organizations threatened and demanded fees that were impossible to pay for them. On September 3 and 4, criminals killed two butchers and a shopkeeper.
 
Vega Zayas considers that perhaps by the end of 2021, Guanajuato will register a decrease in violent deaths, extortions, and enforced disappearances when a criminal organization or authorities control the territory.

The Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel plans its return

Vega Zayas warned that violence will prevail in Guanajuato because, despite El Marro’s arrest, the local cartel has smaller groups that produced new leaders. Moreover, she explained a new war will begin soon, as in the case of criminal organizations in countries like Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, and Brazil. 
 
The expert said that “the fact that they arrested the leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel doesn’t mean that the situation will disappear. It’s not a matter of magic because groups control territories, and then the issue is the fight to control small areas.”
 
She also mentioned that the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel is looking to rebuild itself and that it continues to fight the CJNG.
 
“Now it’s a time of fights between different small groups (…) to dominate the territories or impose their conditions, at least to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel,” the researcher said.
 
Based on recent investigations, Vega Zayas explained Los Caballeros Templarios are looking to control areas in southern Guanajuato.
 
Meanwhile, La Unión León aims to control the northern area. Although this criminal organization is not very powerful, it will try to negotiate and engage in new wars.
 
Moreover, the security expert said the surge in deaths is linked to the number of gunmen the cartels are willing to lose in the turf wars.
 
The university researcher concluded the Guanajuato government has no control over these groups. She said, “it got out of hand, it can’t predict what is going to happen with them.”
 
The expert emphasized said it is likely that the CJNG will dominate Guanajuato.
 
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