Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Many from La Ruana fled to the US, due to Los Caballeros Templarios violence

Translated by Chuck B Alamada for Borderland Beat from a Milenio article

Written by Liliana Padilla (Milenio)
Friday, 09 September 2016

Jose Luis Torres Valencia, son of "autodefensa,"    
Rafael Sanches AKA Pollo (picture by Hector Tellez)
A year had passed after the uprising of frustrated civilians that were tired of the harassment by Los Caballeros Templarios when on March 8, 2014, twelve days after the first anniversary, blood spilled again in La Ruana, the first community in Tierra Caliente to challenge this criminal group. Despite the Federal Operation to stop the submission in which Los Templarios had most parts of the state, a double homicide in La Ruana demonstrated the differences between the different groups of autodefensas.

On March 18, 2014 Rafael Sanchez, AKA El Pollo and Jose Luis Torres AKA El Nino were found burned to death in a truck near La Rauna. A wedding band, a lead fragment, a bracelet, and part of his hand, were the only items that enabled the identification of Jose Luis Torres’ body. March had not been over when the Torres family fled La Ruana and moved to California. Two years later, the double homicide is still unsolved and the family hasn’t returned to their home in the heart of Tierra Caliente.
A folder with newspaper clippings from the March 8th incident was the only life insurance that they took with them.

They traveled to Tijuana and crossed over to the US where they asked the government for political asylum to so that they did not have to relive that nightmare where the Torres family lost their patriarch.

Of Jose Luis’ three children, two are in the United States. His daughter, Nereida lives with her husband and mother. His son, Miguel Angel was transported to a detention center where he was detained for nine months until he was deported a week ago, despite of the evidence that he and his family wouldl be in danger. Jose Luis, his second son, decided to stay in Mexico City and will unlikely return to La Rauna.

After his father’s death, his mother did not want to leave her home, but were able to convince her. It wasn’t just the violence, but the memories also tormented her. At the end, her visa was enough for her to stay with her daughter in Sacramento, California although Miguel Angel, the youngest brother, didn’t have the same luck despite his wife and newborn son also living there. Miguel Angel has had difficulties getting asylum and although he has been deported, he will not return to Michoacan.

As he opens the door to the house that he’s returned to after a year and a half, Jose Luis says” “They will not grant political asylum to my bother because there are already too many families from La Rauna, but he has to appeal the judge’s decision and that costs $8,000 USD.” The pink house in which Jose Luis’ three children grew up seems abandoned. The truck used by the autodefensas leader and limonero (lemon picker) still sits in the garage. The violence displayed them and a banner with his pictures is the only memory left of that tragedy.

“Here they come to say that now Michoacan is a safe state with their operations, but there continues to be death in La Rauna almost on a daily basis. We cannot return like this.”

He affirms that there are many from Michoacan in the US, specifically from La Ruana and all fled due to the violence.

While he’s doing a walkthrough of the home with dust on the furniture, he tells me:”When things were at their worst with Los Templarios, I asked my dad to leave, but he refused to leave his house and land. I told them on the day of his funeral, if he had left, none of this would have happened.”

In their special report on the autodefensa groups in Michoacan and human rights violations due to the conflict, the National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH) documented the displacement of 483 people as a result of the violence. According to the report, San Miguel de Aquila in the municipality of Aquila, Nueva Italia in the municipality of Mugica, Coahuayana, Aguililla, Apatzingan, and Tepalcatepec are among the affected communities. CNDH documented that the armed uprising was due to the criminal groups and the “omission of the authorities in guarantying public safety” first in La Ruana and Tepalcatepec and then 33 (out of 113) other municipalities thereafter.

But La Ruana wasn’t symbolic only for being the birth of the uprising, but also for the disputes between rival autodefensa groups. The first dispute cost the life of Jose Luis Torres and Rafael Sanchez. Their families blamed the autodefensas group linked to Hipolito Mora. The reason for the dispute dealt with 300 hectares (741 acres) of lemon trees that had been taken over by Templarios and one of the victims, Rafael Sanchez intended returning the land to the lawful owners.

“Rafa and my dad had their differences with Hipolito Mora because he was expelling people from the town and it was also proven through hundreds of reports that he was taking their houses. At that time, my dad and the other person were really close to the Consejo de Autodefensas and wanted them to return the houses to their owners” says Jose Luis while he places down on a shrine a small box with items belonging to his father.

This was not the only episode, Luis Antonio Torres, El Americano, and Hipolito Mora had several other disagreements. The worst one caused the death of 11 people in December of 2014 after confrontation outside a ranch which had been Mora’s fort for many months during his battle against Los Templarios and where he had also installed a security check-point that prevented Americano’s people from entering the town. In that incident, both men ended up in jail although they were freed after a few months.

That confrontation led to the gun battle that resulted in the death of 11 men just outside the municipal cemetery, a holy place where the tombs fight for space and are stacked against each other; the majority of those dead are a result of the violence. There are fresh flowers in some tombs, but only in a few as most people buried their death and never returned.


The Governor of Michoacan, Silvano Aureoles affirmed that “criminal groups have become stronger due to their conspiracy with the state government.” This statement was made after the person in charge of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Mario Padilla Adame asked the state government for help. “Don’t leave us alone, we trust that you will bring peace to this municipality, we need urgent attention” urged Mr. Padilla Adame.

The Governor reiterated that this is the fault of “other administrations,” that sided with the members of organized crime. The Governor did not specify if he was referring to the government of Fausto Vallejo (former Governor) or the government of Leonel Godoy (also former Governor) or Lazaro Cardenas Batel.

“With these statements, I have to agree with what has been expressed: we have talked with Hipolito Mora and it’s also not the right path for people to be armed as that is the Government’s responsibility.”

The most recent violent attack in Michoacan was the helicopter that was shot down last week with a Barrett rifle by narcos.