Update: Chivis and Pepe sent me additional parts of this Proceso story that were not included in any of the versions I used. I have added the text at the end of the original translation. Thank you, Chivis and Pepe.-- un vato
In Michoacan, the violent events of the past weeks and several Michoacan residents interviewed by Proceso indicate that "viceroy" Castillo has failed totally in his "pacification" mission. There are those who state that, far from pacifying the state, the federal government's commissioner entered into a pact with one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the Tierra Caliente region --Los Viagras--, which has multiplied the problems. Father Gregorio "Goyo" Lopez, vicar of the Apatzingan cathedral, goes farther in his statements: he claims that, according to local stories, Castillo received $7 million dollars to allow Los Viagras to commit crimes, his favorites, who are now out of control.
MEXICO, D.F. (Apro).- For two hours on Tuesday afternoon, (December) 16, two groups equipped with high power weapons fought for control of La Ruana, in the Tierra Caliente, Michoacan, a key location in the production of synthetic drugs and an obligatory route for loads of cocaine, marijuana and gum opium going to the United States, according to official documents.
On that day, the followers of Hipolito Mora and Luis Antonio Torres, "El Americano", exchanged gunfire with .50 caliber machine guns, assault rifles and high power pistols, and launched fragmentation grenades. The result: 11 killed.
And while that was happening on Michoacan territory, the federal government's commissioner, Alfredo Castillo, was in Mexico City. He had lunch in a Polanco restaurant, then he went shopping in a luxury watch shop in the neighborhood, so claimed PAN senators Luisa Maria Calderon and Javier Lozano. [He was shopping for a Rolex, according to other news services.--un vato]
When he was told about the shootout, all that Castillo could think to say was that it was due to personal differences between Mora and "El Americano". However, residents of La Ruana, in the municipality of Buenavista Tomatitlan, assert that it is in reality a battle for control of this area that is important in the production of synthetic drugs and the strategic route for transporting other drugs.
In the beginning, they say-- on the condition that their names be withheld-- the area was controlled by Jesus "El Chango" Mendez, the founder of La Familia Michoacana and a native of that municipality. The inhabitants of the community of Felipe Carrillo Puerto -- known as La Ruana in honor of a white mare with grey and bay spots-- comment to the reporter that La Familia Michoacana as well as Los Caballeros Templarios have for some time used the place for construction of laboratories for the production of synthetic drugs.
According to them, on September 20th, personnel with the Mexican Attorney General (PGR: Procuraduria General de la Republica) and the Federal Police (PF: Policia Federal) shut down a laboratory in the town of 18 de Marzo. At the same time, the National Security Commission (Comision Nacional de Seguridad) issued a communique in which it disclosed that "tambos" (oil drums) had been found "in the brush", as well as "improvised burners" and plastic containers with precursor chemicals for manufacturing methamphetamine.
Synthetic drugs continue to be manufactured in Tierra Caliente, such as ephedrine, crystal and crack. This last (substance) was, according to official documents consulted by Proceso, invented in Apatzingan by Los Caballeros Templarios.
In Aguililla, Coalcoman, Aquila, Chinicuila, Coahuayana, Tepalcatepec and Sierra de Tumbiscatio, they grow opium poppy, from which opium gum is extracted. Opium gum is the basis for morphine and heroin, the most powerful drug.
According to the National Defense Secretariat (SEDENA), soldiers from the XXI and XLIII military zones have located and destroyed dozens of narcotics laboratories in the Tierra Caliente region where La Ruana is located, which puts this state in first place in this activity, above Jalisco and Sinaloa. In 2012, the PGR dismantled 938 clandestine laboratories, 83 of which were used to manufacture methamphetamine in Tierra Caliente (Proceso, No. 1917).
The Navy reported that the construction of these "narcotics factories" increased 1200% in Michoacan and displaced the cultivation and planting of marijuana and opium poppy. Another document, attributed to military intelligence and which this reporter had access to, establishes that as a result of the rise of self defense forces in February of 2013, two groups took advantage of the Templarios' weakness to take control of Tierra Caliente.
One of them, Los Gallegos, is led by lemon grower and hotel owner, Miguel Gallegos Godoy, "El Micheladas" or "El Migueladas"; the other group is "La Tercera Hermandad", or H3, associated with Los Viagras and led by "El Americano", who, although born in the United States, is a Mexican citizen.
ALLEGED SELF DEFENSE FORCES
"El Micheladas", former Templario chief, has entered into agreements with Nemesio Oceguera Cervantes, "El Mencho", of the Jalisco Nueva Generacion Cartel, since 2011, since he's one of the main producers of synthetic drugs in Michoacan. Both of them, according to the document mentioned above, rely on alleged self defense forces ("autodefensas") in Tierra Caliente, and use the routes in Tepalcatepec, La Ruana and Buenavista, which border Jalisco.
"They say that their operatives for this purpose are the so-called H3, led by Luis Antonio Torres, known as Simon or El Americano, who is the leader of the Buenavista Tomatlan "autodefensas" and who leads an armed group of approximately 1,200 individuals, who also call themselves '(an) operative autodefensa'". (Proceso No. 1955).
One of the organization's operators is Jose Alvarado Robledo, "El Burrillo" or "El Burro", who is identified as the sponsor of the Buenavista Tomatlan "autodefensas".
Also mentioned are Jose and Antonio Mendez Vargas, the brothers of "Chango" Mendez; Gerardo Serafin, "El G1", formerly with Los Caballeros Templarios; the brothers Rodolfo and Mariano Serra Santana, "Los Viagras", the most powerful criminal organization in Tierra Caliente, which today occupies the position formerly held by Los Caballeros Templarios.
The cited confidential report states that "El Americano" and "El Burrillo" have tried to take over some orchards belonging to "Chango" Mendez, who was arrested in 2011. Supposedly, (Hipolito) Mora, compadre (co-godfather) of "El Chango", had them and used the income to support the "autodefensas" and the widows in the municipality.
For that reason, aside from their personal differences, the confrontations between Mora and "El Americano" for control of La Ruana are increasingly more violent.
After this past 8th of March, with support from Commissioner Castillo, "El Americano" took control of Buenavista Tomatlan and pushed for (Hipolito) Mora's imprisonment five days later, on (March) 13th, accused of the murders of Rafael Sanchez Moreno, "El Pollo", and Jose Luis Torres Castaneda, known in the community as members of Los Caballeros Templarios.
Mora was in prison for 65 days in the David Franco Rodriguez Correctional Center, known as "Mil Cumbres" (1,000 Peaks), until he was released on May 16 because the evidence brought against him was insufficient.
By then, "El Americano" and Los Viagras -- now converted into Rural Police (Fuerzas Rurales) and supported by Commissioner Castillo -- controlled one of the principal routes in Michoacan for the transportation of synthetic drugs.
THE GODFATHER OF LOS VIAGRAS
Alfredo Castillo, former head of the Federal Consumer Protection office (Procuraduria Federal del Consumidor) and former Mexico State Attorney General, was appointed Commissioner for Security and Integral Development of Michoacan by presidential decree (executive order) on January 15 this year. His orders: pacify the state and disarm the self defense forces that had organized to fight Los Caballeros Templarios.
In six months he became known as the "viceroy" of Michoacan, a nickname he made popular because he dedicated himself to imposing the entire political and justice systems, negotiated with the leaders of the self defense forces -- which he transformed into Rural Police (Fuerzas Rurales) on May 10 -- and, according to Gregorio Lopez, Vicar of the Apatzingan cathedral, he made a pact with Los Viagras, allowing many "repented" or "forgiven" Templarios to join the Rural Police.
Subsequent to that, President Enrique Pena Nieto returned to Michoacan and declared that peace and tranquility had been restored by Castillo.
However, the hard facts from the National System of Public Security (SNSP: Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica) show that violence increased in Michoacan in 2014 compared to last year. According to the SNSP's statistics, the state continues to be ranked as one of the top five places in the number of intentional homicides, kidnappings and extortion.
From February to October, 2013, for example, there were 663 murders reported; during the same period in 2014, these increased to 732. In 2013, there were 12,674 robberies; so far this year there have been 13,028. Kidnappings increased from 134 to 140.
Father Gregorio "Goyo" Lopez, Vicar of the Apatzingan cathedral, argues that Castillo has failed in his mission to restore peace and tranquility in Michoacan because he made a pact with and protected the Los Viagras criminal organization and converted them into Rural Police, which gave them more power.
In the interview, Lopez explains why El Americano's attack against the Mora group is evidence of the strength and power of Los Viagras, who, a couple of days earlier, blocked highways and burned their Rural Police T-shirts after Castillo issued an ultimatum to surrender their weapons.
"There's an internal war among the groups. The fact is that Los Viagras were angry with Castillo because he gave them a two month deadline -- which already passed--, which is the reason for the road blocks and burning of the T-shirts. They want to put out the message that they are the good guys; they want to make the others look bad and portray themselves as victims, as martyrs."
"Commissioner Castillo met with them and told him he does not want armed people from Los Viagras, that he is going to remove them. But today, it was the opposite: they attacked Mora, who was not against them. The situation has gotten out of control for the government because it put criminals in uniform and now it does not know how to get rid of them", asserts Lopez.
With Castillo, he adds, they wanted to manipulate the situation in Michoacan for the media when they declared that everything was under control, but it was all false. He proposes that the citizenry be taken into consideration through a council made up from different sectors of society to elect the rural police forces and to look for mechanisms for pacification other than militarization of the state.
-- What can you say of the current situation in Michoacan? -- he is asked.
-- At this time it is out of control and Castillo must pay for his mistake. Maybe the best thing is for him to leave the state, because he has been the godfather for the Los Viagras group for some time. He has been their accomplice because they gave him $7 million dollars so he would let them commit crimes. There are some people who say that.
"If Castillo received money and was corrupted, the healthiest thing to do is for him to put the people he enlisted in jail and for them (the federal government) to get rid of the problem. Good or bad, they need to be put in their place."
Interviewed on this matter, Aguililla businessman Jorge Vazquez, who is an "autodefensa" now, argues that Castillo has created a bigger problem than existed before.
Before, there was only one organized crime group -- Los Caballeros Templarios--, but today there are several who have the people under their control. "The situation is pretty confusing. You can't tell who's who. It's like a powder keg ready to explode," warns Vazquez.