Police in Mexico’s Gulf coast state of Veracruz say 14 criminal suspects have been killed in a gun battle with a patrol of Mexican marines. A statement released on Monday by state police says the shootout began when gunmen attacked a police patrol car in the township of Jesús Carranza in a remote part of the state.
The authorities said marines arrived as backup and also came under fire. “When they arrived, they were attacked by the same group, 14 of whom were killed and an unknown number ran up the hill,” said an official report published by the Veracruz government.
The state attorney general’s office has asked authorities to secure the area where the attack took place and ordered prosecutors and forensics experts to begin an investigation. The marines reportedly found a .50-caliber sniper rifle and 13 assault rifles at the scene.
Veracruz has been riven by drug cartel turf battles, kidnappings and killings
Veracruz has been riven by drug cartel turf battles, kidnappings and killings over the last decade.
The incident is the third round of clashes between law enforcement agents and armed gangs in the five days since Miguel Ángel Yunes Linares of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) took office.
His predecessor, Javier Duarte, fled after Mexican prosecutors accused him of corruption and misappropriation of public funds.
After meeting with navy officials, he has since promised to reinforce security in coordination with federal agents. A shootout in the same area on Saturday between suspected criminals and Mexican soldiers resulted in the death of three suspects.
Authorities also found two bodies showing signs of torture in the states, while local media reported homicides in seven cities.
Homicides are on the rise in Veracruz. Official organizations have documented 993 murders between January and October of this year, up on the 565 homicides in 2015.
Corruption scandals, hundreds of bodies found in mass graves, human right violations, thousands of disappeared people and hundreds of killings of women have marked Duarte’s time in office, an official once named by Peña Nieto as a member of a new generation of politicians who were going to change Mexico. According to Mexico’s Finance Ministry, Duarte left Veracruz with a public debt of $837 million. He resigned from his post as governor of Veracruz on October 12 to face over 50 allegations against him.
“The rise in violence is the result of several factors: the dispute between criminal groups, and not just between the Jalisco New Generation and Los Zetas cartels, but also due to internal battles between Gulf groups, Los Zetas and other criminal organizations,” explains the security analyst Alejandro Hope, adding that the regional government has been to blame for failing to impose its authority.
Veracruz, once a major tourist destination, is facing economic ruin: the violence has kept visitors away, and industry and manufacturing is in decline, while its port is losing business to more competitive rivals.