The differences between the two blocks that make up the General Council of Autodefensas have escalated into accusing one another of being linked to organized crime
By: Laura Castellanos
Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán— The roadblock that blocked the advancement of the autodefensas towards the port of Lázaro Cárdenas ended up showing the differences between the two blocks that make up the General Council of Autodefensas. The roadblock that was set up on the coastal road of the village of Chuquiapan prevented the liberation of the port, considered to be the main financial stronghold of the Caballeros Templarios.
This roadblock was set up on February 26, two days after a front of farmer guards and Nahuas indigenous peoples from the municipalities of Aquila, Coahuayana, Chinicuila and Coalcomán would take off to the opposite end of the coast and in nine days, would advance 260 kilometers to Caleta de Campos.
A skirmish, which occurred on April 27 when the autodefensas of Caleta tried to cross the roadblock, with an outcome that left five people dead, caused the two main blocks that make up the autodefensas to accuse each other of having links to organized crime.
The group that Papa Smurf leads is part of the main leaders in the area of Tierra Caliente, who include agricultural farmers, and ex “forgiven” Templarios; the other side is led by Manuel Mireles, who is supported by autodefensas of the purépecha plateau and the coastal communities, who refused to let “forgiven” Templarios integrate with them.
On May 1, Adela Micha broadcasted an interview with Papa Smurf on Televisa, which asked about the autodefensas of Caleta.
—Are they from the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG)? (Originally from the state of Jalisco)
—[Yes] from the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, they were going with another purpose: the port of Lázaro Cárdenas— Papa Smurf responded.
Meanwhile, Mireles states on the same incident that: “None of the dead were from Chuquiapan, they were only Templarios from Lázaro Cárdenas and from La Mira”.
The autodefensa leader of Caleta, Gabriel Caballero “El Plátano”, stated during an interview with El Universal that Caballero Templario leaders in the region, such as El Chabelo and El Quinientos, who funded the militia of the roadblock, are allied with Papa Smurf. “And they have told me through the phone that they want to fuck me up”, “El Plátano” says.
On April 27, at 15:30 hours, 200 autodefensas from Caleta, on dozens of trucks and accompanied by a convoy of Federal Police (PF) towards the end, commanded by Chief Valerio, headed towards liberating Lázaro Cárdenas.
A makeshift camp with civilians was at the roadblock, apparently unarmed, and masked men controlled the free transit of individuals.
The rural guard Aníbal Barajas says that the instructions were to shoot only if they were shot at. When they tried to pass through the checkpoint, a truck crossed onto the road and shot at them.
“Someone who was at the hills shot, and two who were at the roadblock came out firing, they were the ones who first opened fire”, Barajas says.
But from the opposing side, Jesús Ramírez says that they didn’t have any weapons.
“It’s a lie, we didn’t shoot at all”, he says. “No one was at the hill”.
Hours later, Manuel Mireles and Papa Smurf arrived at the place from different routes.
Mireles arrived accompanied by a dozen trucks and met with the autodefensas of Caleta.
Then, Papa Smurf and some 50 vehicles came down from the mountain with a convoy of State Police to protect the roadblock.
The Evidence of Caleta
In the joint operation of the autodefensas of Caleta and the Federal Police, in Chuquiapan, they found a document signed on March 8, 2014 by Papa Smurf and 50 people, who asked the Vice Admiral Luis Orozco, of the Tenth Naval Military Zone, to protect the roadblock because they feared an attack “by a criminal group”.
The letter talked about the masked men: “we don’t have any type of weapons and that is why we cover our faces”.
In the operation, weapons and official uniforms of the Mexican Navy and the Mexican Army were found buried in the village.
The autodefensas group took four “hawks” to Caleta, videotaped the interrogations without showing their faces, and then let them roam freely.
In the testimonies the youths say that a woman named “Mary” from Playa Azul, paid them 1,200 pesos per week in order to “work with the (false) autodefensas to benefit the people”.
Each of them says that Papa Smurf would even come down to the roadblock to visit them. One says: “He (Papa Smurf) hung out with the Templarios a lot”.
The autodefensas also obtained some official statements by the “hawks” of the roadblock, in which they say that men with large caliber weapons were there.
In five videotaped testimonies, a man and four youths stated that they came from La Mira and Lázaro Cárdenas.
The boys, who range from 15 to 18 years old, explain that they were paid between 1,000 to 1,200 pesos every two weeks to be at the roadblock.
One of them states that around eight armed men “were up there, at the wall”, which is what they called the cliff of the mountain; while other armed men were on both sides of the road hiding.
“El Plátano” also states that the autodefensas also found a narco-laboratory close to Chucutitán with a witness who incriminated Papa Smurf: “Without pressuring him or anything, [he said: ‘It’s Papa Smurf’s’]”.
On April 29, the General Council of Autodefensas met and mentioned “El Plátano”. He didn’t attend, he sent a representative; his expulsion was decided, and the autodefensas under his command were unrecognized.
The following day, the Council held another meeting in a seaside bower in Aquila, in which Papa Smurf did not attend but his second in command, El Gordo, an avocado farmer who is linked to the Templarios, did.
“El Plátano” attended and gave his version, he showed the document and some shirts that said: “Grupo de autodefensa”, who according to testimonies, were given to the people who were at the roadblock by Papa Smurf.
Mireles says that at the meeting, “El Plátano” scolded El Gordo and told him that he had a video that shows him receiving money from Servando Martínez Gómez, La Tuta.
Mireles says: “That is when El Gordo stood up and said: “We have all been sitting down alongside La Tuta, and I said: ‘Not I, Not I’”.
Later on, El Gordo returned to the issue and justified his encounter with La Tuta with the reason of being extorted, “Who hasn’t met with La Tuta? Businessmen, packers, farmers”, he listed.
The Council did not expel the autodefensas of Caleta or “El Plátano”; on the contrary, they decided to stick together.
The next day, at the meeting that the Council had with Alfredo Castillo in Apatzingán, Papa Smurf introduced a dozen people who said they were affected by Chuquiapan.
After the end of the meeting, Castillo and Papa Smurf, with Mireles behind with a tense face, met before the press.
Papa Smurf said that the autodefensas of Caleta were unrecognized until it is clarified “who is to blame for the killings” of Chuquiapan.
His unilateral declaration angered the autodefensas of the coast; the majority of which are Nahua indigenous people, who have strengthened the view of their own community organizing without media leaders.
Semeí Verdía, a Nahua leader of Ostula, said: “Papa Smurf is just a spokesperson and is not someone who can run off someone else”. He also added: “It makes you wonder how they have liberated a lot of municipalities without even catching a fucking ‘hawk’. Wouldn’t there be a little business with the Templarios?”
On the afternoon of Saturday, May 3, Papa Smurf, El Gordo, and a dozen trucks were at the roadblock in Chuquiapan with men and women there as well. They had arrived there the previous night with 50 vehicles, accompanied by a convoy of State Police.
Papa Smurf was to move to the square of Chuquiapan to formalize the local autodefensas and also the citizen committee of that same group.
Upon commenting to him that they accused him of having ties with the Templarios for supporting Chuquiapan, he pointed at the people who were next to him and said: “Are they Templarios? They’re townspeople!”
He continued: “I don’t support any criminal and I don’t have any differences with Dr. Mireles, let’s make it clear!”
However, Manuel Mireles, without making any direct accusations, says that: “There is a lot of economic interest and they’re going to kill for the economic interest.”
“Here, there are bastards who used to be lemon pickers who are now owners of six avocado orchards”, Mireles says. “There are bastards who didn’t even have a fucking bike before who are now owners of 12 trailers, and I’m denouncing them”, he adds.
—And is Papa Smurf involved or infiltrated?—they ask him.
—I can’t tell you because if you publish it, there are going to be more people who want to fuck me up—he answers.
Source: El Universal