The entire police force of a town in the western Mexican state of Michoacan has deserted due to death threats from suspected drug traffickers, officials said.
The 32 police working in two shifts in the town of Caracuaro, home to just over 10,000 people, decided to flee for fear they and their family members would be targeted by drug-gang hit men, the state’s Public Safety Secretariat said on Friday.
None of the 32 police has formally resigned and therefore will be dismissed if they do not show up for work within the legally specified timeframe, a spokesperson for the state’s Security Council said.
The police may have abandoned their posts due to threats from suspected drug traffickers after a clash with the criminals on Wednesday, when they provided backup to cops in the neighboring municipality of Nocupetaro, the spokesperson said.
Eighteen members of Caracuaro’s police force walked out between Wednesday and Thursday and the other 14 joined their colleagues Friday after more death threats were issued, prompting local authorities to request the deployment of army soldiers to the town.
Caracuaro is located in the so-called Tierra Caliente region, which straddles parts of Michoacan and the neighboring states of Guerrero and Mexico and is being fought over by the La Familia Michoacana and Los Caballeros Templarios drug cartels.
Drug-related violence in that region of western Mexico also has led to the desertion of police forces in the Michoacan towns of Tiquicheo, Tancitaro and Tuzantla.
Caracuaro is a historically important town where Mexican independence hero Jose Maria Morelos served as parish priest before joining the armed struggle against Spanish rule.
Michoacan has been one of the states hardest hit by the drug-related violence that has claimed nearly 50,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon took office and militarized the struggle against the cartels.