Death on a soccer field: Texcaltitlán and its last massacre announced

It was a wide, sandy soccer field, in front of an elementary school. Farmers and the La Familia Michoacana cartel had gathered there on Friday at noon. The appointment, in Texcaltitlán, in the south of the State of Mexico, had been prepared since the previous day. There was only one point of the day: extortion. The criminal group demanded that the community members pay a fee for each square meter of their bean and pea fields. They refused. This year the harvest had been bad. What happened next was the massacre: 14 dead and seven wounded, shot, macheted, beaten, in front of the cell phones that recorded the latest example of the violence that the Mexican Government is unable to put an end to.

There is a long history before reaching this battlefield. For years, the population of Texcaltitlán, the gateway to the Tierra Caliente region, has lived under the rules of the cartel. There rules the horror of the Familia Michoacana, a long-standing group whose alleged leaders, the Hurtado Olascoaga brothers, are the most wanted criminals of the Prosecutor’s Office of the State of Mexico, with whom they maintain an all-out war.

Every year there is a reminder that there is no truce in the region. On March 18, 2021, the cartel murdered 13 agents—eight from the Security Secretariat and five from the Prosecutor’s Office—in an ambush in the neighboring municipality of Coatepec Harinas. No member of the operation survived. In December 2022, a gunfight in Texcaltitlán ended the lives of 11 alleged members of the criminal group and their military-dressed monkey. In the midst of violence, citizens.

Police and experts at the site of the murder of 13 agents, in March 2021.
Police and experts at the site of the murder of 13 agents, in March 2021.EDGARD GARRIDO (Reuters)

“The municipality of Texcaltitlán is tired of so much extortion, that our rights are violated, of just seeing and remaining silent for fear that they will take our relatives, kill them or force them to work for them, all the farmers are tired of paying fees, Tired of seeing how crime, Familia Michoacana and the person in charge of it (Don Payaso), go around with trucks and armed men, intimidating the population,” says a recent publication by a group of neighbors. The same story is reflected in the investigations of the Prosecutor’s Office, which recognizes that since 2017 the cartel has been charging fees “from ejidatarios, sawmills, butchers, mines and merchants” and, if they do not pay, “they are kidnapped and in many cases, executed.” .

In this scenario, some residents of Texcapilla, a community in Texcaltitlán, had a meeting with organized crime on Thursday night, in which they charged them the annual apartment fee. “That day they did not reach an agreement and they were summoned again on Friday at 12 noon, at the soccer field,” a neighbor told Foro TV. The conflict was that the Familia Michoacana wanted to charge one peso per meter, said this neighbor. Whoever has a hectare pays 10,000 pesos a year, about 500 dollars; But whoever has three, it is 30,000 ($1,500), in a poor region that survives thanks to crops.

Shortly before the massacre, farmers from several communities — Texcapilla, Palomillas, Llano Grande, Santa María — joined together and decided that they were not going to pay. “We said we were not going to pay and they came with the idea of ​​killing the people,” says that farmer.

At 12:14 p.m. the first call to the emergency service was registered. A neighbor notified 911 that people traveling in a van were detonating firearms in front of the Miguel Hidalgo elementary school. There is the soccer field, in the center of a washed-out municipality, crossed by crop fields. What is seen in a video of more than two minutes recorded from a home is a meeting of several dozen people. Some inside cars, many with hats. And suddenly, the gunshots.

The first reports indicate that the cartel opened fire on the farmers in the middle of the discussion. They responded: some had shotguns, others had sticks and machetes. The images show how the farmers grab one of the hitmen, dressed in red and with blonde hair, and beat him until he no longer moves. In total, 10 alleged cartel members were murdered. Four, the farmers.

An image spread on social networks of the confrontation between farmers from Texcaltitlán and members of the Familia Michoacana.
An image spread on social networks of the confrontation between farmers from Texcaltitlán and members of the Familia Michoacana.

At 2:50 p.m., the Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation file for the admission of five people injured by firearms to a hospital in Texcapilla. Two other injured people, apparently members of the criminal group, were taken from the hospital where they were being treated by an armed group, according to the investigation. At 3:20 p.m. security elements arrived at the soccer field, where there was also a burned-out vehicle with three bodies inside. A few minutes later, the paramedics entered. At 7:00 p.m., the Government of the State of Mexico began a crisis table.

Among the deceased is the alleged leader of the Familia Michoacana in the State of Mexico, Rigoberto de la Sancha Santillán, alias Payaso, according to the State Prosecutor, José Luis Cervantes. The official has not given more names but has indicated that two other deceased were “high or medium-level hitmen.” “This criminal cell has a direct antecedent with the action of March 18, 2021, in Coatepec de Harinas, where 13 security elements lost their lives,” said Cervantes, who has accused De la Sancha of directing the ambush against the agents. “He had an arrest warrant,” he noted.

One of the most respected community leaders in Texcaltitlán also died in the confrontation: Noé Olivares Alpízar, who is remembered on social networks: “You will undoubtedly be remembered as the greats, you brought together the hard-working and honest people of your town, such As Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla once did on the night of the cry of pain, you fought shoulder to shoulder with your people with the little they had to defend themselves. Your death and the death of your companions will not be in vain. “They are our heroes!”

Members of the National Guard guard the town of Texcaltitlán, on December 11.
Members of the National Guard guard the town of Texcaltitlán, on December 11.Felipe Gutiérrez (EFE)

That same night a fear began to spread that has not gone away. At 9:51 p.m., a call alerted emergencies to the possibility that 30 members of the cartel were regrouping to begin an attack against the population. Cervantes has said that no “risk situation” was found, but 600 members of the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) and the National Guard have been deployed in the area.

Neighbors are warning that the cartel is trying to find those who rebelled and killed 10 of its members. “Obviously there is the National Guard, the Army, the State Police, but they are in the gaps, they are not going to leave until they find the ‘culprits’ and, the worst part of the case, is that they no longer see if it was one family or another, “It is the entire community, we revealed ourselves and now we are afraid, the reality is that we live in fear, fear that they will continue to persecute us,” he told the newspaper. Reform a person who asked that his name be omitted.

In social media groups, some residents of Texcaltitlán mention the option of organizing, as is already happening in states like Guerrero, to confront the threats of crime. However, the governor of the State of Mexico, Delfina Gómez, who visited the municipality this Monday, has denied that this is going to happen. The president already said over the weekend that she is not going to abandon the town: “I request the permanent presence of federal forces in the region. To the south of the State of Mexico, I tell you: you are not alone, we are with you.”

Meanwhile, Texcaltitlán resembles a ghost town. Businesses closed, families who have left their homes until the situation calms down again. And, on the soccer field, there was still blood this Monday.

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