Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Communities of the Western Sierra Madre, Hostages of the War Between Cartels

Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

The government's policy of non-intervention and the pandemic have exacerbated the territorial dispute between the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel and the Sinaloa cartel, which increasingly suffocates municipalities of Durango, Zacatecas, Nayarit and northern Jalisco

Wixárika inhabitants of the Sierra de Nayarit on the borders with Jalisco. CÉSAR RODRÍGUEZ

On the evening of November 30, 2020, an armed criminal cell arrived in the village Mesa de Torrecilla, in the mountainous territory of southern Durango, in search of the community member Refugio Ramírez Aguilar. 

According to the witness account, the man took advantage of a confusion to escape through the mountain, but instead they took his elderly father, Jesús Ramírez Carrillo, who is still missing.

That kidnapping in a village of the Wixárika or Huichola community, one of the four indigenous peoples that inhabit this corner of the Western Sierra Madre, was one of the numerous side effects of a war that has increased in intensity last year, in the midst of the pandemic, between the Sinaloa cartel (CDS) -which has traditionally dominated that region of borders between the states of Jalisco, Zacatecas, Durango and Nayarit-, and the Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG), ready to take control after expanding from the canyons of the southern region.

The territorial dispute that the two criminal organizations have maintained since 2019 for control of the region, the hub of the traffic routes to the north and the Pacific coast, began to escalate with the policy of non-intervention of the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador - "hugs, not bullets" - and intensified during the health crisis. 

The withdrawal process of the National Guard and the state police forces ended at the end of last year: in October 2020, members of the Jalisco New Generation cartel ambushed and murdered six Durango police officers and injured seven more on the route between Mezquital and Huazamota. Since then, the role of the security forces in the area has become almost testimonial.

With the war between cartels unleashed, the municipalities of the Sierra Madre Occidental have been at the mercy of de facto powers: for years they have been forced to participate in the planting of poppy -which has declined with the fall of the opium market-, and in the economy of extortion, but now they are also directly "invited" to join the ranks of the disputed cartels, as communities of the municipality of Mezquital (where indigenous Tepehuanos, Coras, Mexican and Huichols live) have denounced); kidnappings of indigenous and mestizos have increased and new checkpoints have appeared that limit the territories.

Ranches damaged in the Sierra Madre Occidental during police operations in Tamazula, Durango.RASHIDE FRIAS / RASHIDE FRIAS

In February, the commissioner for dialogue with the indigenous peoples of Mexico, of the Ministry of the Interior, Josefina Bravo Rangel, received a complaint signed by "the affected indigenous peoples" that recounts six enforced disappearances to the detriment of the Wixaritari community members (the name given to the Huichols in their language), which occurred between November 2020 and the end of January 2021.

"Our communities have witnessed the shootings, shootings and fighting that have taken place in the area, causing not only uncertainty, but also affecting innocent people who transit the area, which is their home, since before these groups had arrived," the document states. 

According to different sources, the agency conditioned its intervention on the filing of formal complaints of disappearance with the state prosecutors' offices, but the distrust and fear of the community members has prevented the completion of this process. In fact, they have been left to their fate.

The same month, the governor of the neighboring state of Zacatecas, Alejandro Tello, sent a request for help to López Obrador, where he said that in the state "there is not only a health pandemic, there is also an epidemic of violence: permanent settling of scores, disappearances of people, confrontations with collateral damage, kidnapping and extortion." 

In his letter to the Presidency, Tello reported that the fierce struggle for territorial control between criminal groups had plunged the State into a security crisis, and that the police reaction force available to them was insufficient before the cartels, more numerous and better equipped. "Please don't leave us alone," he begged.

In mid-March, in the Huichol community of San Andrés Cohamiata, in Jalisco, community authorities denounced that the federal government had stopped sending them health and food support due to the increase in violence on the roads of the adjacent valleys, which led to an exhortation to the Governments of López Obrador and Jalisco by the State Human Rights Commission.

The new old violence

While the municipalities struggle between inanity for their meager resources and the criminal gangs exercise almost complete control over their representatives, the inhabitants cry out for institutional intervention. 

Or the group that guarantees them peace. The domination of the territory by organized crime is not new for these communities: for two decades, after the Sinaloa cartel, under the command of Joaquín Guzmán Loera - and with the alleged permission of the authorities - managed to defeat and return the Zetas to their old border in the center of the State of Zacatecas, the "Chapitos" maintained relatively peaceful control over this region.

The perverse side of the situation was the normalization of the force of criminal groups among citizens and the almost complete renunciation of the Mexican State of the monopoly of violence.

But the current dispute over the territory has brought a set of new problems, starting with confusion about who to turn to for justice. Days after the kidnapping of Jesús Ramírez Carrillo in Mesa de Torrecilla, the villagers approached a paramilitary camp of the CJNG, from whom they asked for help.

"They denied being involved with the event, and promised their support to the victims," reveals one activist. The accusations between the two cartels are crossed daily on social networks: one attributes violence against civilians to the other. In fact, the promise to track the old community member led to new incursions that today cause displacements from more remote villages in the mountainous area of Durango.

Mexican Army elements destroy marijuana plantations in the mountainous area of the states of Nayarit and Jalisco. 

"The Sinaloa cartel was not a very predatory organization of society and communities; that has changed with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and with the changes in the leadership of Sinaloa," says Guillermo Valdés Castellanos, former national commissioner of the Center for Research and National Security (Cisen) and author of History of Drug Trafficking in Mexico. 

"The other most relevant thing is: what the hell are these guys doing fighting these municipalities of extreme poverty?" For the analyst, the incursion of these groups into areas such as the valleys of Mezquital, in Durango, exceeds the phenomenon of a typical dispute over territory between the two cartels that monopolize drug trafficking in Mexico: "Just as I had proposed that criminal organizations had fragmented, diversified and militarized," says Valdés Castellanos, "I see as hypotheses that they have lumpenized; that is, they are looking for miserable rents in miserable places."

The advance of the Jalisco New Generation cartel in this region, according to the testimonies collected, translates into an increasingly complex domain: the control of the municipal police; the collection of a protection fee and the right to move goods in businesses in the area, such as sawmills and mining companies; and the emergence of improvised checkpoints that control the passage of travelers in daylight. 

“In all the villages there are falcons, you can't go without being seen," says a merchant who prefers to keep his name anonymous.

The drama is not limited to indigenous communities. In early February, in Mezquitic, the largest municipality in Jalisco, Álvaro Madera López, a pre-candidate for the presidency of the entity by the PRI, was kidnapped.

In March, the Secretary of State Security intervened in the police station of that municipality and arrested seven active police officers, including their commissioner, for links to crimes such as aggravated kidnapping, forced disappearance of people, bribery and abuse of authority. 

Four of them were prosecuted for enforced disappearance and homicide.

A few days after the Secretary of Security of Jalisco took control of the Mezquitic police station, the red note page Alerta Durango, where it is common to find information about sending reinforcements of one cartel to confront another or about the dispute over the Plaza de Zacatecas, spread a message in which anonymous residents of Mezquital said they were afraid: "We are tired and fed up with the cartel that is in this municipality because there are massacres of innocent people every day because we don’t want to fight against you, they force us to use weapons without knowing how to use them in order to make their group bigger."

The mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental from Tamazula, Durango.RASHIDE FRIAS / RASHIDE FRIAS

A little more than a year ago, Selene Galindo, a Comunera o'dam (tepehuana) originally from Mezquital and a specialist in the language of her ancestors, was invited by federal legislators to talk about the preservation of the language. His diagnosis was already bleak then: "Who will speak those tongues when the speakers are being killed?" Galindo asked. 

"The speakers are being stripped of everything we name with those languages! And it seems that nobody does anything, because those who fight were already killed before some local newspaper registers it. Our tongues are tied to a territory that we can no longer access, to a house to which we can no longer return, to everything that is or was there that we can no longer return to."

In January, a couple of months after kidnapping the elderly Jesús Ramírez Carrillo, the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel struck a second blow against the Huichol community members: they arrived in the town of Tepetates and kidnapped Vicente De la Cruz Díaz and Ambrosio De la Cruz Ferrel. 

After three days, the hitmen returned to Mesa de la Torrecilla and finally took the sought-after Ramírez Aguilar Refuge, and also his brothers Jesús Ramírez Aguilar and Gonzalo Ramírez Aguilar "while they were performing a traditional ceremony in their family ceremonial center," says the letter in the possession of the commissioner for dialogue with indigenous peoples. 

Today, four months before the nightmare began, neither don Jesús Ramírez Carrillo nor his three children have returned home. The Huichola village has been gradually depopulated. The ancestors and the gods are abandoned, drought exhausts the pastures and fear expands, as in other corners of these mountains, their overwhelming silence.

El País


  1. Most of those small villages grow “poppy & marijuana” and that’s how they survive. The villagers receive very little support from the local government or federal.

    Now all these criminal groups are attacking their one source of income

  2. I do wonder why are they even bothering with these folks and their town? Like whats to gain??

  3. It is better the devil you know then the devil you don’t.

  4. Michoachangos have turned their state into the shittiest state in Mexico, now they are doing the same to the rest of Mexico.

  5. "It was peaceful under Chapitos, Sinaloa cartel did not disturb the public, CJNG does the exact opposite." LOL Even the director of Cisen says CJNG is a disaster and extorts and kills innocents. Cant wait to hear Cjng cheerleaders with their emojis make excuses for this article.

    1. Look how chapitos have Sonora and cds silences news outlets look how the killed marovich lady and tired to blame el 80

    2. Billy Jean stfu, CJNG fan boy. CJNG is the biggest evil in Mexico.

    3. Sorry Billy Jean, it happens in Sinaloa and Sonora but not as frequent as it does wherever CJNG has a presence. CJNG is truly a cancer to Mexico.

    4. 127 factual. the only people who root for cjng are pochos. Most real michoacanos hate them for what they have done to their once beautiful state.

    5. @2:56 are you from Michoacán? What general area? Another state? O eres otro POCHO que se creé Mexicano..

    6. Hagan fila para mamarsela a los chapitos pues plebitas lol

    7. Same guy commenting

    8. I don't understand these idiots that come on here just to talk smack. You can't get any stupider than that. Cjng has and is making lots of people suffer. There is no question that before there incroachment into this area things were calm and innocent people weren't really messed with, now they kidnap, extort, force people to fight, make people disaear,etc. That's garbage. And people still want to cheerlead for these mfs. I seriously don't understand. If any of this ever touches your loved ones, we'll see if you still have your pom poms out.

  6. Not a good article for the cjng cheerfags lmao 🤣🤣

  7. To bb the first time they el 85 is mentioned as truly being against mencho since the rumors when he was released. Érick Valencia Salazar, alias “El 85”, presuntamente se unió al grupo en cierta ocasión para ayudar en la guerra contra el CJNG, a pesar de que antes había estado aliado con El Mencho. In valor por tamaulipas the history of carteles unidos.

    1. No digas babosadas don Erick esta al 100% con don mencho

  8. Great article! Keep it up borderlandbeat! Keeps me entertained when I have some spare time of the road!

    Jon E. Depth

  9. Return Chapo to return the peace. This has gone too far, AMLO impotent.

    1. Return Chapo lol, ok yes anything you say. Lol

    2. Lol, lloron Chapo will die in that small cold concrete box. He doesn't even have Univision o tacos para comer.

    3. He’s too busy wetting pillows with his tears lol what peace? Didn’t he declare war and betray people in the first place?

  10. “We are tired and fed up with the cartel that is in this municipality because there are massacres of innocent people every day because we don’t want to fight against you, they force us to use weapons without knowing how to use them in order to make their group bigger.”

    Exactly what non-CJNG cheerleaders have been saying those scum bags do. The 12 they sent to Durango to die were also innocent people forced to join them. Cjngs best men are not being sent on those excursions because they know they’re not making it out. That being said I’d like to see mencho send RR and his grupo “elite” to the golden triangle. Let’s see how elite they really are with their fancy trucks and guns

  11. Sorry Cjng boylover I don't read comments with all capitals.

  12. What is El Pais, a spanish rag?
    The spanish government defended Chile from pinochet, and Daniel Ortega from the US and the Contras, but the US paid billions to "king juan carlos" in exchange for being able to over spain with war materials amd soldiers for their wars for profit against Iraq and Afghanistan at the expense of the american people, the profit was from billing the US for their "services".
    Spain got handsome profits from meddling in LatinAmerican affairs, posing as defenders of the indians while helping iberdrola, oceanografia, Santander Bank and others loot mexico through political connections, Spain has also been financial paradise for too many corrupt mexican politicians and the moneys they stole while in office, Israel now protects mexican fugitives involved in the disappearance of the Ayotzinapos, and former CISEN executive writes books about drug trafficking "in mexico' which is a very recent phenomena, because drug trafficking THROUGH México has been the favorite money maker for US and other international banksters and money launderers.
    Guillermo valdes castellanos could write a book about that and help defend the defenseless communities fro. Minning corporations and sawmills, and drug farmers left without business by chinese chemicals and their meth/fentanyl producers.
    Valdes castellanos could alsobwrite the history of CISEN's mother, the sinister DFS organized by the CIA that became the proyector and instigator of innumerable crimes to fight communism while becoming the drug traffickers of choice for their US partners.

  13. CDG will take Durango when its all said and done

    1. Durango is just more pinchi desierto chihuahueño, ALV.

    2. Alv se ve que no conoces Durango .

  14. Excellent translation, Sol! Eres una maquina wey. Muchas gracias.

  15. These midgets will not stop. The US must start carpet bombing michoacan like hitler did to London until nothing is left. You will also help the average height in Mexico go up about 3-4 inches


Comments are moderated, refer to policy for more information.
Envía fotos, vídeos, notas, enlaces o información
Todo 100% Anónimo;