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UPDATED 13/10/2015 with more in depth Riodice article
[ Subject Matter: Marines operation in the Sierra Madre Occidental
Recommendation: No prior subject matter knowledge required]
Reporter: Martin Gastelum
Since Tuesday no less than 14 communities and their citizens have been practically effectively kidnapped by elements of the Mexican Marines.
Cosala, Sinaloa: it was a little less than 72 hours that the villagers of 14 communities of the Sierra Madre Occidental lived nightmare existence due to an operation by the Mexican Marines.
Villagers of the said communities, concentrated in the atrium of the Santa Ursula Church in the head town of Cosala, denounced that the said communities and especially its citizens, were left incommunicado, and the Marines stopped everyone leaving or communicating with their families, so they tried to solicit the support of the Municipal Authorities of Tamazula and Concordia, who said they couldn't intervene as they considered it a Federal operation.
Stationed on the road that leads from Mexico 15 to Cosala, right in the town of El Salto, and Marine roadblock checked every person that was travelling to the "magic town", they questioned the purpose of the trip and demanded identification of all the persons travelling, the same being done to everyone leaving the town.
In the community of Cosala, those who were affected by the Marine operation, said that these interruptions to their communities, after the alleged same events in the community of "El Limon", in the mountainous part of the municipality of Tamazula, Durango, where a confrontation is brewing between the Marines and some alleged criminals, when recently a Marine plane in the area had been damaged by criminals that could have led to the aircraft crashing, resulting in anger on the part of the armed forces, provoking their wish for retribution on the the neighbours of the surround communities.
Recounting the events
Rosario said that in the community of El Verano (the summer), where her family have their roots, that the Marines arrived on Wednesday morning, interrupting the communities firing at the houses and into the air, they were shooting with firearms and grenade launchers, after they fired at the houses they fired into the surroundings, wanting to intimidate the population. The same story is told in a similar way by residents of the communities of La Lagunita, Las Higueras, La Sierrita, El Zaus Viejo and Jacales.
I believe the dreams of my grandson, he dreamed that the "Gauchos" were killing him, they came yesterday evening and started shooting, why are they doing that if we are good people?", said Donna Maria.
The citizens of the mountain communities living in Cosala, decided to go to the community of Palo Verde, where allegedly the marines were in the way, two units, who assured not to know the facts about what was going on, and that they were just carrying out orders from their superiors, ensuring that the population can travel overland, without guaranteeing their safety from the air.
The marines deny an aircraft was brought down
Yesterday, on their twitter account, the Secretary of the Marines of Mexico, denied that in Durango one of its aircraft had been brought down. In an unofficial report this past Tuesday, in the community of La Borrega, Durango State, it said it had had an armed confrontation in which several people had died, and a supposed helicopter had been downed by armed civilians.
Original article in Spanish at El Debate
Riodice offers more information in their article see below.
|The faces of fear: the displaced by the search for El Chapo in Tamazula|
The villagers had to abandon their houses to seek refuge in Cosala, for fear of being attacked after an intense battle from helicopters Tuesday this past week, where houses were shot up, at this time there are no reports of loss of life.
The marines have already denied, in an official manner, that it is not their elements that have been responsible for the shooting against houses, and that they maintain a state of readiness, they also insinuate that a criminal group could be utilizing SEMAR uniforms, so that they will be accused.
Here the people left fleeing
"About ten of us came to the mountain, we came with a little girl, we are suffering from hunger, they girl, well already she is dying, we want to return to our homes and families", said Heraclio.
He is a youngster of the El Aguila community, town of Tamazula, he said that on Saturday about 7 in the morning in the main square of Cosala, people left heading for their communities to rescue their relatives, which until then had not been able to leave the mountainous area.
Heraclio carries his 4 month old baby, beside his wife, Yanet who seems shy, " its because she is still afraid," said her husband; his plastic sandals scraped on the road where he originally fled in fear that the marines would shoot him.
This past Tuesday Heraclio and his family didn't lunch or breakfast, it was around 7:30 in the morning, when they had to flee for the mountain because helicopters arrived and started firing, who according to reports were Marine units, four days it took them to reach Cosala,Sinaloa.
"Here at the ranch passed three helicopters, but at El Limon ranch they were talking about two helicopters, that arrived firing. When they attacked we left our house for the mountain, they road was difficult because we had no facilities for the trip, which was hard on the little girl".
The fear that Heraclio had of being shot was because, two days earlier, agents of the armed forces, arrived at his house and beat him, claiming reports of kidnapping,"they beat us but apologized afterwards, and warned us not to make any complaints or they would kill us".
Heraclio and his family were not the only ones leaving the village on Tuesday because of helicopters shooting in the mountains of Tamazula, similar events being reported in the villages of El Verano, Lanunitas, Los Laureles, El Ranchito and Las Iglesias.
The tragedy at the Magic Village
The main square in Cosala was the meeting point for the families of the Durango mountains that are allegedly besieged by the Marines.
|The Santa Ursula Church at Cosala showing the difficult surrounding terrain|
Around 50 people, accompanied by the President for the Commission of Human Rights, Leonel Aguirre Meza, and the activist, Professor Oscar Loza Ochoa, the Attorney of Tamazula, Juan Jose Maclovio Gonzalez and Secretary of City Hall, Eduardo Mejia, went in search of authorities that would be able to guarantee their security to reach the villages.
Leaving Cosala, for the village of Palo Verde, the delegation med the first Marines. Peacefully people approached them for a response and guarantees for their safety and the people moving to their villages.
After questions from the people about the states of siege the marines have kept in communities such as El Verano, the marines commander denied the situation, expressing the right of freedom of movement of any person, and hinting that the people carrying out the shooting were criminals impersonating the institution.
"We are here, because we need to know if there is any force or group that is impersonating us".
In an interview with the marine in command of the local operation, who had installed himself in the graduate primary school Benito Juarez, in Palo Verde, he said the he could not guarantee the safety of the people who wanted to get deep into the mountainous area.
"So they dont they havent considered the feeling or opinion of the villagers besieged by marines in the higher villages?"
"The truth, no, and because of that I'm saying that people can pass, we are not obstructing the path of anybody, much less the Commissioner for Human Rights.
"What guarantees can you give the people that pass?"
"I think that you don't understand the situation now, but those that pass by now run the danger, because we know that a group of people are running around dressed as us".
"It has been mentioned that Joaquin Guzman Loera could be hiding here......"
"This is not the principal objective, now it is the nonconformity of the citizens because they are creating a bad impression of the this institution in this respect".
Heraclio is close to the elements of the marina and asks the question, " are you sure it is not your people?"
Heraclio also explained what had happened over the previous two days, " Look for the past two weeks a plane has been flying high, which we regarded little, and then at 7:30 in the morning, a twin turbine plane appeared, but I don't know what it is called."
"It appeared flying low over the ranch, we came outside to look to see what the disturbance was. In a few minutes, maybe five, after the plane left, came three small helicopters, that I'm not saying were from the marines.
"They were heading for the point of "El Limon", then two or three more helicopters arrived and began to shoot at the ranch."
They followed to another small ranch of a brother, they also started shooting, they killed women and fired grenades, on my ranch I was with my family, with my four month old daughter, and they started to shoot without looking at who was running or if there were armed people shooting", said Heraclio to the marines.
"But these were not the only units encountered by the villagers, before they arrived in the community of El Verano, there were elements with the UNOPES insignias, a tactical group from the special forces of the marines".
The first thing that we arrived at was a high school of CONAFE, a single building that seems abandoned, the marines were camped there.
They were allegedly attacked, there were a few spent cartridges of different calibers but the building showed no bullet impacts.
Arriving there are trucks loaded with blankets, clothes, food, and everything they could bring, little by little the villagers are leaving, preparing vehicles to leave quickly; there were elderly women crying because they had to leave after 80 years of life there.
Meanwhile the Commissioners for the Defence of Human Rights and support authorities from Tamazula carried out an inspection, he heard a helicopter flying, and though he could not see it flying high he could hear a twin engined plane.
Martha Marbella, lives in El Verano, her house being one that the marines shot up from their helicopters, the roof and walls peppered with bullet impacts, allegedly attacking this woman's house for an hour and a half.
This Tuesday past, since the morning the villagers of El Verano, when disturbed by aircraft overflying the area, came outdoors to look at them.
By the afternoon Martha went outside to look and saw there was a helicopter flying very low, it was around six in the afternoon, she was with her daughter of two years of age, her husband had gone to work with her son cutting melons together with their grandmother that lived in the village.
"I ran for my daughter outside to get her into cover inside, I almost got to the side door when they opened fire at me but didn't hit me, I got inside for refuge, I waited until the aircraft had gone before I came back out of the bathroom, we had been sheltering there for an hour and half while they shot at my house."
The following day, elements of SEMAR left to placate the villagers that were in the majority, women and children.
"We asked the officials what had happened, they said it was bad people, but I told them it was the Government, we have seen their plane, its the same plane that has been going around all the time."
"We did not collect any shell casings, the marines did that, they ordered us out of our hose, we were refugees, we left because of the fear."
"After they left were heard they were looking for someone, they didn't tell us, they may want to do harm to whoever it is, but to us?" said Martha Marbella.
The son of Martha was putting a couple of small chickens into a cardboard box, while his mother recalled the fear he felt last Tuesday and the days that followed, not knowing if they would return and open fire again, his hands slowly stopped shaking and his voice returned to normal pitch, as if he calmed down with every minute that his leaving El Verano approached.
Around 43 people abandoned their homes on Saturday afternoon, but arriving at Cosala was not easy, five and half hours journey, all the vehicles in the caravan packed tightly together as the bad roads and tough going meant those at the back caught up quickly.
The river was almost the last obstacle blocking their arrival, two vans were stuck, one with two little girls inside, who were rescued by a resident of Palo Verde. After a while a municipal police patrol arrived to remove the vehicles from the water.
The marine roadblocks of Palo Verde, were searching every vehicle, the people were threatened with disappearance, a five hour queue waiting at this point.
On the other side of the marine roadblock, a group of people were already waiting and received with applause, hugs and tears, family members with whom they had had no communication since last Tuesday.
Inhabitants of other communities more remote have not been able to leave their communities, and that people remain trapped within the zone of the operation launched by the Marines in a supposed search for Guzman Loera.
Original article in Spanish at Riodice