Armed men attack Mexican town hall, killing mayor and 17 others

San Miguel Totolapan, in the state of Guerrero, is routinely rocked by violence due to its location at the heart of a drug production and transit hub

Balacera San Miguel Totolapan
Mayor Conrado Mendoza Almeda; the municipal building housing the town hall, after the attack.RR. SS.

A group of armed men broke into the municipal building of San Miguel Totolapan, a small town in the Mexican state of Guerrero, and shot dead the mayor and at least 17 other people on Wednesday afternoon. According to local media, the attackers also targeted the house of the mayor, Conrado Mendoza of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), and erected roadblocks in several parts town.

At least 20 more people were injured in the attack, according to the same sources. A local criminal group has claimed responsibility on social media, reflecting the power of the drug mafias in one of the poorest, most forgotten and dangerous area of Mexico, known as Tierra Caliente.

One of the victims was the mayor’s father, also a local politician. Several police officers who tried to repel the attack were killed. Photos circulating on social media show the façade of the municipal building riddled with dozens of bullet holes. This is not the first time that the building has been attacked, according to local media. On at least three other occasions in recent years, the façade has been hit by everything from bullets to grenades.

San Miguel Totolapan, with a population of just 20,000 residents, is located in the heart of Tierra Caliente, in the crossroads between Michoacán, Guerrero and the State of Mexico. For years, the area has been a bastion of organized crime, a drug production territory and a route through the Pacific corridor. During last year’s election, several local candidates literally had to ask local gangs for permission to campaign for office. Many of them resigned due to threats from the mafias. The governor of Guerrero, Evelyn Salgado, lamented the attack and said on social media that she has asked prosecutors “to expedite investigations and clarify the facts.”

Mafia territory

From poppy cultivation to the proliferation of clandestine laboratories for synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine and fentanyl, drug trafficking networks have been fighting over this part of the country for over a decade. The gang that claimed responsibility for the attack is known as Los Tequileros, a splinter group of La Familia Michoacana, the powerful organization that dominated the area during the worst years of the so-called war on drugs, which began in 2006 and is now in decline.

Tierra Caliente is also the stronghold of Cartel Jalisco – Nueva Generación, the most powerful mafia group in the country, and the homeland of its leader, El Mencho, one of the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s most wanted criminals. Its heart is the town of Aguililla, in the state of Michoacán, which for months has functioned practically as a zone outside national authority, where criminals do as they pleased in full view of the army, deployed on the margins of town. This is an example of the containment policy implemented by the Lopez Obrador administration, which has in recent months stepped up intervention in the area.

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