By Chris Covert
Less than 24 hours after several Mexican news organizations reported a large intergang gunfight in central Mexico conflicting stories have emerged as to whether the gun battle even took place.
Sunday night late several credible Mexican news agencies and news outlets, including Organizacion Editorial Mexicana, Televisa and Informador reported a gun battle between elements of Los Zetas and Los Caballeros Templarios took place in Luvianos municipality in western Mexico state claiming the lives of at least 30 shooters.
Now 24 hours later, respite a confirmation from unnamed Policia Federal officials, and military officials in the Mexican 22nd Military Zone, the Mexico state Secretaria Seguridad Publica (SSP) denied in a Tweet Monday afternoon the confrontation ever took place.
According to several news agencies, Mexico state SSP head Salvador Neme Sastre denied the battle ever took palace, saying, according to a report posted on the website of SDP Noticias news agency, "I deny that there has been fighting between criminal groups in Edo Mex (Mexico state) Luvianos. Much less 30 dead."
Despite that denial by a top Mexico state government official, according to the article other unnamed government officials in Mexico state now state that the confrontation did occur but between Los Caballero Templarios operatives and local civilians after elements of the Los Caballeros Templarios demanded paid tribute from several far western Mexico state municipalities including Luvianos, Amatepec and Tejupilco.
The report also said that the the ensuing gunfight lasted three hours until 1800 hrs local time Sunday.
Mexican news agencies and federal and state government agencies have an arrangement. Government agencies report and news agencies transmit the reports. Given the nature of reporting on the drug war, Mexican news agencies seem to be fine with the arrangement, even as they augment that information with their own people on the ground.
What made Sunday's report report unusual is that in as little as a few minutes after such an incident, social media such as Twitter would have photos transmitted from the scene,and would have included photos of shot out pickup trucks or buildings, spent cartridges and other debris of armed confrontation. None of that information has been released to date by any agency of individual.
A separate report by Radio Formula news agency said that the remote area that include Luvianos is used for cultivating marijuana and is desirable because of its remoteness.
The SDP Noticias report added that it is impossible to independently verify the report because of how remote the area is, and because of security forces cordons and checkpoints.
Erroneous reports are not rare in Mexico. For example, at the start of last April's gun battle between gunmen with the Sinaloa Cartel and an amalgamation of rival cartel shooters in northern Sinaloa state, a report released by El Debate claimed 40 died in the initial encounter. Although the death toll turned out to be much lower, more than 50 ended up dead and possible more over the next several weeks as security forces filtered into the area.
That initial report relied on a single government source, Eleazar Rubio, mayor of El Fuerte municipality. And while no one ever found the 40 bodies claimed killed, it is possible many of those dead were retrieved by shooters as a security measure.
Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com