Proceso (8-29-14) (www.proceso.com.mx/?p=380757)
By Patricia Mayorga, translated by un vato for Borderland Beat
Street in Guadalupe y Calvo, Chihuahua
The presence of the military in some of the Chihuahua municipalities has not prevented organized crime from murdering its rivals and other civilians who refuse to submit. Organized crime targets indigenous communities dispersed throughout the "Golden Triangle" area in an effort to grab their lands and use them to grow marijuana and opium poppy. Even there, where there is a history of growing narcotics, the people cannot stay because criminals have become extremely violent.
Guadalupe y Calvo, Chih. (Proceso).- Guadalupe y Calvo is traditionally a mining municipality, but its principal activity during the last 50 years has been growing marijuana and opium poppy. It became a prosperous and envied region, reaching the highest minimum wage in the country. Businesses, hospitals, schools, all of its society earned a living with those crops... but these products turned against the people. Hundreds of residents in the area, which is part of the drug trafficking Golden Triangle, had to flee to stay alive.
The Sinaloa Cartel established its base of operations in Puerto de Yerbitas, another town in this municipality, on the highway that goes to the municipal seat of government and towards Badiraguato. And so Yerbitas, like its neighbor, El Ocote, was left almost uninhabited since 2013. The same thing happened with other towns in Guadalupe y Calvo faced with the threat from the criminal group. Because of its rugged terrain and complicity on the part of the authorities, the zone has been ideal for drug trafficking operations for decades.
Residents who fled from Yerbitas seven years ago remember Fernando Covarrubias, 22 years old, who returned with his family after a long absence. He was a boss with the Sinaloa Cartel and was murdered in 2012, but his cell was established there.
In April, 2011, Covarrubias was arrested with two other young men in Turuachi in possession of firearms and drugs in the same municipality (File No. PGR/CHI/PARR/942/2011-C). Those interviewed remember he was released quickly.
A young man who came from his town narrates: "Fernando had another boss and when they killed him along with with other people, they begin to dispute the plaza, and that's when it gets ugly, because everybody knew him. They say they haven't killed he boss yet, but the people from Sinaloa operate there, and the kid himself began to bring people from outside into Yerbitas."
When they killed Covarrubias, his family had to leave the town because they were threatened.
"The ones who worked with him and his acquaintances had to leave, because he wasn't involved only with drugs, he also had businesses that bought and sold lumber. There were a lot of people working with him, they persecuted them or threatened them. All the family... to the fourth degree... it didn't matter, they killed or threatened them, too, the same with the families of the men they killed along with him. There were about 40 families affected between 2012 and 2013," the witness recalls.
Just in May of 2013 they killed several people. "Not much was known, but they murdered three girls that night and some more men, there were many 'disappeared'. Over there, they kill people and the bodies never show up," says another displaced young woman.
The first witness indicates that the criminals have their favorite areas to dump bodies and leave vehicles abandoned, but nobody dares touch them or report it to the authorities: "They are new pickups, nobody recovers them. A grey Avalanche was left for along time near Yerbitas, going up through Turuachi, who knows if it's still there."
The few people who remain in town live in fear. "You're always checking with your friends to see how things are when you want to go anywhere. First, you ask how things are."
Before, at 6:00 pm, the streets were full of people, they'd get together in the towns. Today, although the presence of the military in the county seat has allowed some places to be taken back, the people from the towns prefer to go home early. The stores also close.
"Since last year, the landing strips that weren't being used any more have been reopened", adds the interviewee, "They have been reconditioning them. In prior years they were working only as lumber centers, they were going strong, but because a lot of them have had to leave due to the violence, they fixed them up and airplanes began to land again ... but they take off very quickly."
Last year they murdered Jaime Orozco Madrigal, who was running for municipal president. Before and after that, there was a crime wave in the region: three men from the town of La Hacienda were kidnapped and their bodies were later returned. They abducted another five (men) from the town of Mesa de San Jose, and they were never seen again. The bodies of two others, 25 years old and with their hands tied, were dumped on the road to the Dolores Section.
From that point on, criminal groups incinerated vehicles and people, they savagely murdered inhabitants of Puerto de Yerbitas. Not all the murders were officially reported, and several victims were never found.
Just in five days in July, two women, 17 and 21 years old, were murdered in Yerbitas; the head belonging to the second woman was never found. In other operations, authorities secured eight AK-47 magazines and a fragmentation grenade. They also found two cargo trucks incinerated in which, they said, there were no bodies, but people from the municipality say there were at least nine bodies incinerated.
Also during those days, six men were wounded in a gunfight and two pickups were burned. The wounded men were being transferred to hospital in ambulances when they were rescued by their friends.
A month before that, near Yerbitas, they murdered two children (7 and 11 years old), their father and their grandparents. Then they killed a soldier.
There were gunfights in Baborigame, too, and the gunmen kept the town in fear for a long time. "It's inexplicable; everybody knows where the narco roadblocks are located, there are soldiers, but nobody does anything", says one of the displaced people. And he remembers the peaceful past: "Before, it was peaceful, you could walk around at dawn through beautiful scenery. You knew that a lot of people were in the business of growing marijuana, there were always gunmen, but that was all; they were not sicarios (killers.) The terror started with the sicarios."
Several local residents agree that the criminals diversified six years ago. "Now, the ones that are real nervous are those who own sawmills, but they extort everybody, even the indigenous people. Last year, around July, they killed a lumber yard owner because he wouldn't pay the 'cuota' (protection money)".
The first investigator of the State Commission on Human Rights in Parral (Comision Estatal de Derechos Humanos), Victor Manuel Horta Martinez, says that last year the (human) displacements intensified and that the towns of Guadalupe y Calvo were left practically uninhabited. The challenge for the commission was to follow up on the murders, threats, kidnappings and extortion cases on their own initiative since there were no criminal complaints. The terror paralyzed the people.
The young woman they decapitated in Puerto Yerbitas was Horta Martinez's niece. She had six other brothers and the whole family had to flee.
The state authorities' strategy to fight crime is simple. In October of 2013, when Jorge Enrique Gonzalez Nicolas was named general prosecutor for the state, he gave orders that police reports from the southern zone were not to mention homicides; they (homicides) would only be disclosed when the media requested it.
Resistance by indigenous peopleAlonso Molina Carrillo, one of the community leaders in Coloradas de la Virgen, points out that the authorities never pay attention when they report threats or murder attempts. "I've spoken with the commander and the Pubic Ministry, but they don't even go there. They're either afraid or have been bought off. One of them told me, 'Put on a hood and go for it.' Where's the help?".
He warns that the criminals want to take their lands to plant drugs. "I remember my parents used to tell me... we have a map from 1912. It was an indigenous community, there were no divisions or lumber cutting, one lived peacefully. In 1955, they began to organize it as an ejido (communal land)... In 1970, they divided us into indigenous people and mixed blood people (mestizos). They left us the rough terrain. There's about 52,000 acres of forest, one part has been cut down, more than half of it, but all they gave the indigenous people was rough terrain. There's no pine trees, no forest, only hills.
"But we have always lived there,within the ejido, because our town is there, we have meetings, we appoint the governor, we organize feasts, we have our belongings, from our forefathers. They cannot run us off. We're from there, we're inside the ejido, we are not ejidatarios [registered members of an ejido], but rather, comuneros (communal landowners)," Molina explains.
In 1992, the mestizos took away their right to an ejido with the agrarian reform. They even took a census without including them. "They have threatened us, but they haven't arrested anybody", he says, but the worst part is that since 1970, they have murdered seven of their leaders.
Today, for safety's sake, they prefer not to "get together with many mestizos nor to participate in gossip, because then we say things, while drinking or something like that, and then they begin to investigate us, to see how we're doing; then they begin to bother us", says Molina.
Sometimes they start to cut down the community's forest, but about 50 indigenous people get together. "We file a complaint, which we already filed with Semarnat (Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales; Department of Environment and Natural Resources). We have an order preventing them from doing it. We go as a group, including men and women". And, yes, they managed to stop the lumber cutting two years ago, but at the cost of frequent threats.
In any case, in Coloradas de la Virgen, drug traffickers are trying to take over the lands. They have their tactics: "They get in by force, they deceive the people. They tell them, 'I'll help you, I'll help you', but in the end, they build their homes and throw them out."
"Many work with them. The work consists of doing everything for the mestizo owners, who are people from outside. There are many families... After the harvest, they leave... but while they are there, they build homes with sheet metal, with wood, they drive late model pickups, dress well, because they've got money."
Some of the indigenous people who help them are children. "They're around, they force them to become sicarios. Once they invite them to work with them, it's as if they tell them: 'You're going to do this.' The only new hires are children between 12 and 15 years old," he narrates.
The closest school is three hours away by pickup and 12 hours on foot. To get medical care, people have to wait until the health brigades go there, and if somebody gets sick, they ask help from Baborigame, which is three hours away.
"I think the best way to end all this is to take away all of the Petate ranch, which is close to Coloradas. There's another small ranch called Huechi, where there's also another group of outsiders who are also planting."
The defense of their properties in Choreachi cost the lives of two young indigenous men, Jaime Zubia Ceballos and Socorro, whose families had to leave the town because of threats. The teachers in he town also left.
The violence unleashed by the criminal groups forced Isela Gonzalez and Ernesto Valencia -- activists with the Alianza Sierra Madre -- to seek government assistance from the Mecanismo de Proteccion para Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Periodistas (Office for the protection of defenders of human rights and journalists). Their petition was accepted, but so far, not even the risk assessment has been completed.
Also, the community of Choreachi, where a young defender of indigenous lands was murdered last year, presented a request before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission for precautionary measures to protect the community, the traditional authorities and the Alianza Sierra Madre (Sierra Madre Alliance). The petition, which they submitted through the Center for the Human Rights of Women, is being analyzed.
For this reason, the Trust for Competitiveness and Citizen Participation was formed in 2010, to which the Citizen Observatory for Prevention, Security and Justice belongs.
Businessmen in the state contributed an extraordinary surcharge of 5% of the state payroll tax to help repair the social fabric.
According to data compiled by the Observatory, the municipality has only 55 police officers and a yearly average budget of 9.5 million pesos ($730,000.00) for security. The average education level for the population is fifth grade, 21% is illiterate and only 30% of the population is economically active.
This year, Guadalupe y Calvo will receive 14.3 million pesos ($1.1 million) from the National Program for the Prevention of Social Violence and Crime.