El Diario de Coahuila (May 16, 2014) By Sanjuana Martinez -Tres Punto Cero Michoacan Translated for Borderland Beat by un vato
TEPALCATEPEC, Michoacan.- His doctor's gowns are hung in a closet. Fifteen months ago, he decided to exchange his stethoscope for a high power rifle. The family photographs are piled in a corner, covered with dust; memorabilia are in the drawers and the rest of his previously peaceful life was suspended in time. The past, his doctor's office in the Health Center, the laughter from his four children, his wife's home cooking, all that they call a warm home is only an ever more distant memory in his frenetic present. Here, there is only himself, his bodyguards and the mangoes that have fallen off a tree that nobody cares for any more.
On the table at the entrance, an AK 47, three AR-15s, some 9mm pistols, sporting firearms for hunting and other strategically placed weapons. At the far side, a box full of medications to care for the troops. For the past week, any noise startles him. He knows they are looking for him, that they want to kill him or "plant" bodies to send him to prison. Jose Manuel Mireles Valverde has not slept without interruptions, neither does he know what it is to rest, much less a healing sleep. Today he's here; tomorrow, who knows.
That's how it is to go underground. When the government appointed Alfredo Castillo Security Commissioner for Michoacan, better known as "viceroy", hope was reborn, hope that slowly dissolved in the naivete of those who had believed that the solution to the insecurity would come from the government.
The supremacy, control and domination of Los Caballeros Templarios in Michoacan remains intact. Servando Gomez Martinez, "La Tuta", continues to be free, extending his webs of corruption into different governments. Extortion and kidnappings are an everyday thing, the daily executions, the theft of orchards, ranches and houses; massive.
"Almost nothing has changed here," begins the president of the Council of Tepalcatepec Self Defense group, while the government delivers weapons, uniforms and pickup trucks to the registered "autodefensas" to create the new Fuerza Rural (Rural Forces), something that has triggered a new phenomenon, the rise of "good and bad" autodefensas.
He's wearing navy blue pants, white polo shirt, brown sandals. He takes off his hat, runs the fingers of his right hand through his greying hair, sighs deeply and launches the first phrase like a necessary dart against the government's persecution that he is living through: "I haven't done to be arrested for, except tell of the stupid messes that the government is making, of the injustices by the "justice". If that is a crime, then I have (done something wrong)".
The Michoacan State District Court Judge in that resides in the city of Morelia has just granted him an "amparo" (protective court order). It provides for temporary suspension against arrest for non-serious crimes, although he expects that the government will respond that no such action is contemplated, in other words, that there is no pending order issued for his arrest or ordering his appearance, because, he says he has nothing to do with the murder of five men in Caleta.
Despite the death threats, the harassment, the pressure, and the use against him of media sources close to the government's power, Dr, Mireles issues the first warning:
"While there remain healthy people in the movement, so long as we have healthy, clean towns, as long as we have general coordinators that only want is to keep the State of Michoacan free of crime, the Autodefensas movement will continue to exist. We are not going to stop. Nobody can stop this movement, just as they have been unable to stop Javier Sicilia's movement, or that of Isabel Miranda de Wallace, or Alejandro Solalinde, who continues to support migrants".
-- Will it be difficult to disarm these people?
-- We are not going to surrender our weapons. They are not going to disarm us because we do not trust that the government will resolve the situation of insecurity that exists. We will have them ready in case more cartels return to take over our lives. We are going to kick them out, whoever comes here.
The breeze brings the sweet smell of the plum tree that is planted on the far side of the patio. A makeshift net helps protect the ripe fruit that keeps falling, unlike what happens with the other tree, which is constantly dropping fruit. "Another mango just dropped, and I'll go pick it up and eat it right now," he says, laughing, without losing his sense of humor.
There will not be peace
A surgeon, graduate of Michoacan's San Nicolas Hidalgo University, Mireles is 55 years old and previously held several posts in the PRI. Then, at (Mich. Governor) Leonel Godoy's invitation, he was a candidate for the Senate for the PRD (Partido de la Revolucion Democratica; Democratic Revolution Party). His experience with politics allows him to say today that he does not want to return to that world, "not ever".
He'll return to medicine in a few days. His medical position awaits him in the town's Health Center after the employment disability he was awarded after the airplane accident. He's got less than five years left before retirement, and he wants to complete this cycle.
Meanwhile, he has other worries. He's certain that they want to kill him, those and some others. He has suffered the betrayal of his own companions. As if that weren't enough, they want to arrest him. He communicates this to his followers: "There's stories going around that the Federal government will try to do to me what they did to Hipolito Mora. They want to imprison me unjustly for something I did not do".
Dr. Mireles cannot stay in one place for long. He climbs into his new armored pickup that he bought on credit. He heads to his next destination. They report the situation to him by radio in each place he visits. Seventy per cent of the territory that has taken up arms in Michoacan supports him. And he is ready to keep on fighting for a peace that he says "will never return": "In Michoacan, we will never live in peace again. We have angered some very dangerous people. We shut down their gold mines and I don't think they'll keep quiet".
His bodyguards stay silent. They are with him out of conviction, nobody pays them a salary. They don't receive any compensation at all, except that of being with a man they believe in and support, to continue with the "clean up" that this state needs.
He answers phone calls, takes off his hat and shakes his head. He adds: "In the last 24 hours, things are changing from one minute to another". He arrives at a restaurant and asks for some rice. On the nightly news, Joaquin Lopez Doriga announces that Dr. Mireles is being investigated for the murder of five men. He shakes his head in a sign of disapproval: "I've got all the Michoacan press against me, along with the press that is close to power, and these two (networks), too, the two that also support the government".
Despite the massive support from his people, he misses his most loyal companions who were equally harmed by the ambitions of some and the government's strategy: "That's why they ordered them to fuck over Hipolito Mora, because he uncovered them, and the government itself helped them screw Hipolito. When they take Hipolito Mora and Father Goyo from me, they leave me orphaned. With only my Tepeque group".
He recounts his battles and denied having ordered or participated in the slaughter of those five men. He declares that he always in the lead during attacks: "I was the one who led the uprising in Aguililla, at El Aguaje, Tancitaro, at La Huacana and Churumuco, in Nuevo Urecho and Tingambato and also in Tumbiscatio when we went to Arteaga. I never order anybody to advance, I go in front. I didn't order the advance on Caleta. Hell no!
He recalls the episode: "I asked the commissioner for that area, Commander Valerio: Who ordered the advance? and he told me that "El Platano" told them I had authorized it. and I told them: 'No way, don't get me involved in your crooked deals. I never order advances. I lead them".
When he investigated, he discovered that his former bodyguard, Estanislao Beltran, "Papa Pitufo", had planned to lay a trap for him: It turns out that Papa Pitufo was the one who took T-shirts and food for the people he placed there to prevent the people from Caleta from advancing towards Lazaro Cardenas".
The attached documents are the minutes of the general council meeting that Dr. Mireles attended at the invitation of the council president. The last document, captioned "Primera Convocatoria", is the meeting notice sent or posted for all registered members of this indigenous community. The minutes themselves describe the items on the agenda, the discussion and vote, and the action taken. The fifth proposal notes the appearance of Dr. Mireles and discusses his suggestions regarding the creation of a self-defense force. The council voted unanimously to follow Dr. Mireles' suggestion. The items with arrows pointed at them show the time that the meeting was convened and the time that it ended. This shows that it was impossible for Dr. Mireles to have been anywhere close to Caleta de Campo the afternoon of the shootout. -- un vato
Dr. Mireles states that the murder of the five men happened at 4:30 in the afternoon, and he didn't arrive at the scene of the incident until 6:00. When he saw that they had detained 18 men, he asked them:
Dr. Mireles states that the murder of the five men happened at 4:30 in the afternoon, and he didn't arrive at the scene of the incident until 6:00. When he saw that they had detained 18 men, he asked them:
-- Where are you guys from?
-- We're from Lazaro Cardenas and La Mira.
-- And what are you doing here?
-- Papa Pitufo asked the Marines to protect us because the people from Caleta wanted to attack us".
Dr. Mireles began to put together pieces of the puzzle: "When I received the call for help, I naively still wanted to place barricades in La Mira and Playa Azul to protect my friends, who were in Arteaga, for when we entered Lazaro Cardenas together. In fact, the day before I went to La Costa, I was in Arteaga with Pitufo, Viagras, "El Cinco" and with "El Burro"; there was a social event and I went there to give a speech. I told them we had to integrate the Autodefensas Citizens' Council. Half were "La Tuta's" and pure "Familia" people, and the other half was the people. One gentleman showed me 18 property deeds that "La Tuta" had taken from him".
The people quickly gathered around in the place and he (Mireles) led his people in a search of the places that neighbors identified as belonging to people who worked for the Templarios.
"One guy questioned my authority to enter his house to search. I told him "I have the same rights that you and your people had, going to my house and killing my family and leaving their heads at the door to the house. If I find out this minute that you are a Templario, I'll even burn your house down. I won't leave even a damned wall standing. That's what we're looking for. Cleaning up the state of Michoacan".
He adds: "He was going to hit me, but a woman came and said: 'Why is this man acting stupid, if he's the one that takes care of the bars for "La Tuta" in Arteaga'. I asked her how she knew this and she answered: "Because I own a bar and because of this son of a bitch they closed it down and closed down all the others, leaving open only "La Tuta's" bars".
Dr. Mireles intervened: "I know that all of these people over here are not "La Tuta" people, but I'm asking you right now to point out all those who work for "La Tuta" and I'll hang them right this moment". And all those who were objecting, they didn't say one more word".
Also, he recalls that he still believed in "Papa Pitufo" and Alberto Gutierrez, "El Cinco", and told them his plans: "I told hem I had a meeting with 'comunitarios' at 9 in the morning in Aquila, and another one at 11:00 in Pomaro, and the next one at 3:00 that afternoon in Caleta."
"We left the meeting at Pomaro at 5:30, and I heard on my truck radio: "Alert! Alert! They're shooting at us at Caleta de Campo". I had my two bodyguards and another one from Buenavista, and another bodyguard joined us in Pomaro, which made four. So I took off. From the highway at Maruata to Caleta, it's an hour and a half. When I got to Guagua, some 'comunitarios' stopped us so they could come with us. We now had six pickups. When we got to Caleta they didn't even let me stop, they told me: 'Go ahead, Doctor, go on, they are under attack.' And another pickup joins us. So there were seven. I got to Chuquiapan, where the dead bodies were. I didn't see them, they just told me, 'There's three dead guys in that pickup, and another one higher up'. I asked for 'El Platano', coordinator for Caleta, and they said: 'He took off chasing some assholes and they've been shooting at each other for some time now'. So I took off down there. I skipped Chuquiapan and Chucutitan and went on through to Playa Azul and La Mira. I didn't see anything, neither friends nor enemies. So then, from that point I turned back. In El Bejuco, hey told me that 'El Platano' was attacking some Templarios that he caught up with. I told them: 'If you see him, tell him I'll see him at the Chuquiapan barricade'".
Dr. Mireles didn't get to the place until 6:00 in the afternoon, the attack had already happened: "When I got there I saw that they had 18 people tied up, three dead guys in the pickup, and they told me that they had taken another one in an ambulance but that he died on the way, plus the one on the hill, five deaths."
Mireles Valverde interrogated the detainees and one of them stated he was the brother of the "jefe de plaza" (local crime boss), and he told us that the coordinator for Chuquiapan was Templario. They went for him and he identified others, Afterwards, there was a larger group of detainees and I personally spoke with each of them. They were all Templarios, even the kids. None of them was from Chuquiapan."
He goes on with his narrative: "Just then they tell us: 'Pitufo' is coming down through the mountain and he's got 100 pickups, 36 Michoacan Ministerial (police), and pickup trucks belonging to the Federal Judicial Police and the Mexican Army.' I thought he was coming to help us, but they got to the other side and I heard him tell them: 'You tell them that all the dead guys and the detainees are from Chuquiapan'. Right then I interrupt them and say: 'Who are you going to tell that to?', and they answer: 'the police'".
Angry, Dr. Mireles challenges him: "Pitufo, you got here at 11:30, asshole. With all the bodyguards you have, I can come through Arteaga and it takes one hour. You weren't coming to protect (anybody). and he answers: 'It was a fight between two towns, Chuquiapan and Caleta'. I said: 'Bullshit! they're all from Lazaro Cardenas'. So I return and they said they were going to kill 'El Platano', accusing him of being responsible. When I saw him, he said: 'Doctor, give me a hand, these guys want to smear us". Valerio told me that you told him that I had ordered the advance, and you know that not once in my life have I ordered an advance; that I lead the attacks."
Because of what happened, a criminal investigation was initiated. Dr. Mireles says that Papa Pitufo took witnesses in an attempt to incriminate him. "They all contradicted themselves. When they tried to smear me, it didn't work. No way; don't get me involved in their deals, don't get me involved in their stupid messes. I went there because I heard a call for help on my radio. Here in Michoacan things change every five seconds. I still feel affection for Papa Pitufo because of the help he gave me. The biggest pain I feel is knowing that "El Americano" signed the proclamation, because we were very good friends, although they have told me he protested before the Commissioner for what they are trying to do to me.
-- Since when do they want to get rid of you?
-- From the beginning. They gave me 24 hours to live.
-- Now the government has accomplished its goal: divide you.
-- We aren't divided, now there's a 'self cleansing'.
-- Who benefits from that division?
-- Organized crime and the federal government, which has to divide (us) to win. Together, they cannot do anything to us. But now, with different groups. Those, "papa Pitufo", "Viagras" and "Cinco", they have heavily armed people, they go around like the Templarios, La Familia and Los Zeas. They are identical,; the same weapons, the same ammunition belts, everything. We started with pistols. My bodyguard carries a .22 rifle. Those are the 'super bodyguards' I have with me. I'm afraid of a lone hunter who comes up beside you on a motorcycle, they empty the pistol at you and take off. And you death will remain unpunished, like the ones in Apatzingan. There are 4,800 orphans, 2,00 widows, all without social support.
-- How much territory do you have?
-- Seventy per cent. All the coast of Michoacan and the Purepecha highlands. Just today, another municipality came to join us. And we will keep adding people."
Five millions for Castillo
Unaware of the precise plans of the Enrique Pena Nieto government and its Commissioner Alfredo Castillo, Dr. Mireles is surprised that they are trying to disarm only the autodefensas and not the Templarios or other members of organized crime.
He points out that, for several months, Castillo did not allow them to advance into certain Templario areas: "If he did this, it's because Castillo is also a Templario. He allied himself with the criminals".
He explains that "Papa Pitufo", as well as "El Cinco", are former Templarios and former "La Familia", something that has definitely influenced the direction taken by the civilian armed movement, because they supposedly created the so-called H3 Cartel.
-- They drove "El Cinco" out of Tepeque because he joined the H3 Cartel.
-- There's already business being done with Castillo. I know that when we entered the house of "La Tuta's" mother in Arteaga, "Los Viagras", "Burro", "Pitufo" and "Cinco" took out $30 million dollars from a fund that was in the kitchen. They tell me they gave $5 million of that to Castillo because he says he wants to be the governor of the state of Mexico and needs funds starting today. I can't prove it , but unfortunately all I have been saying for 14 months, from what people who were there tell me, has come true, like (what I said about) Chucho Reyna, who is now in jail, and some municipal presidents who are in jail, and some senators and representatives who we have not exhibited yet, but we're going after them".
-- Do you believe Castillo wants to get rid of you and that he was responsible for your removal?
-- Of course; One of my contacts called me and told me: "There are documents coming out of Castillo's office to remove you". It's in retaliation for the things I'm telling Pena Nieto: 'We want to talk with you, because your representatives have already been bought, they're somewhere else'. And since there are billions of pesos involved, there they are. Of course!"
Dr, Mireles still walks with difficulty, he gets down from his pickup, his bodyguards are already waiting for him. He goes into his house and insists: "People from Tancitaro came here three years ago with documents to show me that "Los Viagras" kidnapped my father and my brother three years ago. They told me they had demanded three million pesos and the 65 acre avocado orchard".
And he adds: "We need for Castillo to leave and take all the criminals who are with him. I'm not talking about his staff, but to the people who have the darkest backgrounds in Michoacan. He knows that. Many people have told him".
-- And Governor Fausto Vallejo?
-- The governor is nobody any more. The one that carries out all the governor's functions is Castillo, he's destroying a political system that is corrupt and has been bought by the criminals, that's how it is".
-- Now, with the disarmament of the autodefensas, are the Templarios more powerful?
-- "The Templarios are stronger, they still control a lot of money, and very many people, they still control major cities in the State of Michoacan, where Castillo has not allowed us to enter. It's the same thing I said about Reyna, that he is a Templario."
-- Do you think that Papa Pitufo, Los Viagras and Cinco have already sold out to the government?
-- Of course! If not, who's giving them money? They have pickup trucks, they own 7 or 8 avocado orchards, lime orchards, where they didn't have one damn tree in their homes. They didn't even have a bicycle, and now they own 12 trailers, bringing down iron ore for "La Tuta" in Lazaro Cardenas".
Sometimes, although he has been fighting all day or developing strategy like today, Dr. Mireles likes to go out into the hills, returning to his mango orchard, hunt deer. He gets down from his pickup, walks to the crates of mangoes, where one of his helpers offers him a mango that has been cut up into pieces. He starts to eat the fruit, thoroughly enjoying it. The "Tommy Atkins" variety mango is sweet and juicy. For years, his family specialized in growing this and other varieties.
While they pick fruit, his bodyguard lies down on a hammock. Dr. Mireles eats several mangoes. He washes his hands, walks between the tall trees, with branches up to 30 feet in circumference that offer a pleasant shade with a sweet fragrance that impregnates the whole area. He reflects on the way his family disintegrated, how he chose to remain alone, to protect them. The war separated them. And he confesses that during the past few months he has thought about death a lot, but no longer with fear.
With a deep sadness, he says: "Maybe, I no longer have a family that will cry for me, but I will tell you one thing, that this is going to hurt my youngest daughter. She would die if something were to happen to me. Now, her, she would cry for me with all of her heart".
-- Wouldn't you rather be with your children, with your two grandchildren?
-- I think about them every day. And because I think about them, I will go on.
-- Despite everything that is happening to you?
-- Yes. Mexico has to change. If we weren't afraid of those that were hurting us, we're going to be even less afraid of the governments who may come to persecute us. We are not committing any crime against the nation, nor against any civilian, we're just defending ourselves. Self defense is a constitutional right".
-- In other words, now there are good autodefensas and bad autodefensas?
-- There are those who have already become corrupt and there's us, those of us who started the movement are going on like dogs because we have a clear conscience. We will not turn aside. There have been many offers.
-- By the government?
-- No, those fuckers won't even give you a glass of water.
-- Then, who?
-- One time in Aguililla, some Chinese businessmen told me: "Doctor, we'll give you a million dollars right now". I asked them, in exchange for what? And they said: "We want an absolute guarantee and assurance from you that we'll be the only ones who will exploit the mines". And I said, "No, sir. If you want to give me anything, give me an ambulance. That's what I can use, and it's not for me, it's for the people".
He continues his story. One of the more serious bosses looks at him and tells him, "'You should have taken it'. I respect him a lot and like him because he's one of the few who have given their lives for others. They killed his son, they kidnapped him. The man is hurting. He's very brave. All of us who are in this are hurting because they already screwed up our lives at home. 'Are we going to sell ourselves for a million dollars to Chines foreigners?' I told him, 'No, boss.'"
-- Where does the money to finance the autodefensas come from? Some say it comes from cattlemen, Michoacan landowners who live in the U.S...
-- No. Here in Tepalcatepec, the money comes from all the people in the city. There's no source of financing.
-- So then, where do you get so many weapons?
-- All out weapons were left for us by the criminals. The struggle started last year on February 24. On Monday, February 25, in a nearby ranch, we found three oil drums with 60 AK 47s in each tank. "Papa Pitufo" provided the 300weapons that they found in a single house in La Fragua, above Antunez. That's how we have been arming ourselves.
-- Some have 4 or 5 weapons... How's that?
-- Look, I bought only one weapon. It cost me 40,000 pesos ($3,200.00). It had only one magazine, and I have never been able to find another magazine for it. I already registered it so I can talk about it now. Another one was given to me by the friend of some general, I also registered it. Those are the only weapons I have, other than the .22 and the shotgun I use for hunting. They are hunting firearms, not assault weapons. They aren't sub-machine guns or anything like that. But everybody has nothing but old weapons, because when the movement started, they would dig up their old rifles. The people from the hills would come to the Ganadera (cattle market) to sell their weapons. When they were asked why they did this, they would tell me, 'Because I don't have any money to buy tortillas, boss'. They're not worth much, although we needed good weapons.
-- And "La Tuta", where is he?
-- In his home, very comfortable, in Arteaga. He's not worried now, these coordinators are not going to bother him. On the contrary, they will protect him, not capture him.
-- Is he still the boss?
-- Exactly. Unfortunately, he's still the boss.
-- If they already caught El Chapo, why can't they arrest "La Tuta"?
-- That's right. The worst thing is that the Templarios keep getting stronger while they have money. You think the 300 people the Viagras have with them are volunteers? They are all experts at what they do and they don't work for free. Who is paying them? They do.
-- And (who pays) you?
-- Nobody. The humble people who are with us are doing it for free. There's some days when we don't eat. There's some days we don't have enough money even for a piece of bread. All of us. When they tell me, "Doctor, we want you to come here". I tell them, "Sure, why not. Will you invite me to lunch?" And I get there before 2:00 so I can eat well. We stuff ourselves because maybe there won't be any food he next day. And that's how we're doing it. On all sides. I'm going around begging for money to buy gasoline. When they ask us to go to some town, I tell them, "Give us a hand" so we can fill up my companions' gas tanks. We don't have any money".
Proudly, with his head held high, he goes into town to eat roasted birria, People get close to him, greet him warmly and ask him to take care of himself, they wish the best for him, they give him their blessing and place him in God's hands. He returns to his house, he needs to rest a little. He adds:
"Nobody can say I've sold out. This is my humble house. I bought my red pickup in 2004, I bought the black one in 2012 and the war started in 2013. The one I've got now I bought yesterday, financed with a loan from Bancomer (a bank)."
-- And what about Pena Nieto?
-- He hasn't responded. The only response we've gotten is what Castillo is doing, retaliation. I have a feeling he's going to respond. I have faith. For several reasons, because I didn't make the proposal by myself, I have the support of Javier Sicilia, Isabel Miranda de Wallace, the priest Alejandro Solalinde, Jaime Garcia "El Bronco", Ruffo, General Gallardo, Martha, Mario, Mexicali, Baja California Norte, Quintana Roo and Oaxaca, I have the support of many people. We're going to use a T-shirt that says "I am Autodefensa". That's the way we are going to continue our movement at the national level".
In the meantime, Dr. Mireles will return to his post as a doctor in this city, although he needs more days to rest because half of his face is paralyzed as a result of the airplane accident. "I have 48 screws in my face. All the bone in my face was taken from my foot to repair it. I can't open my mouth right, my teeth are loose, both upper and lower, it's all broken. I can chew only on one side, food and liquids come out on the other side because everything there is numb. I need two more months of rehabilitation. On top of that, I am diabetic".
About his relationship with an 18 year old woman, he says that everything was accidental, fortuitous, and he regrets the 'big scandal that it has become' because of the age difference, something that he says is not important in Michoacan (or in Mexico, for that matter).
"I spoke to her mother about it, I'm friends with her father. I was the doctor for the whole family, in the U.S. Don Tono has 22 children over there with his first wife, this is the second wife with four children, three boys, and the youngest is the girl. I agreed to take her with me on the plane because she was going to La Huacana to see a first cousin who was having a baby. At that time, you couldn't go through Apatzingan, Nueva Italia or Paracuaro. She was the "fifth passenger", but she has complained to me because they ask her on Facebook and she tells them she's not my girlfriend, but, well, that's where we are".
-- The other day, I read on Twitter that someone was saying, "I want a T-shirt with a picture of Mireles like the one with Che Guevara..."
-- (Laughter)... What caught my attention is that they came out with a photo of Miguel Hidalgo, but with my photo wearing a hat. It's blasphemy because Miguel Hidalgo is the Father of our country.
-- Are you turning into a leader, a hero?
-- I feel that that's a rung that is not appropriate for me to assume. I say this after the plane crash. I know that God is giving me a second chance. I don't know why he gave it to me. I'm not a preacher, an evangelist; my wife says I was never a good husband and that I was never a good father, so then, why did God give me a second chance? I still don't know why. I'm going to keep on looking into it. But I do know what I am going to do with this second opportunity. Since February 24, 2013, I have been dedicating my whole life to doing something to liberate Michoacan from those people who have caused such grief for all the families, with the complicity of politicians and government leaders."