A dirt road nestled in the mountains is the only way to get to Aguililla, a Mexican town caught in the middle of a turf war between two drug cartels.
Located in the southwestern state of Michoacan, checkpoints surround the entrances to the city, guarded by armed men.
For weeks, the Jalisco New Generation cartel, according to Mexican officials, has been fighting for control with rival United Cartels. And in the last few weeks, they have closed the main roads and besieged the city.
“It affected us a lot,” said Maria Guadalupe Contreras, who works at a local restaurant in Al Jazeera. “Everything has become more expensive, it is really difficult to supply.”
John Holman of Al Jazeera, who recently visited the city, said the main road to the nearest town, Apatzingan, had been blocked by cartels, making essentials such as food, l ‘gasoline and drugs. It has also made it difficult for residents to access critical medical care.
Daniela Carbajal’s grandfather recently had a burst stomach ulcer, but they couldn’t get him to the hospital on the other side of the blockade in time, and he died.
“My sister and my mother were going to take her but they were told that the highway was blocked, that they could not pass,” Carbajal told Al Jazeera.
“I felt so helpless because there was nothing we could do, it was out of our control. And angry too, it’s not fair that we live like this, ”she said.
On April 1, the Michoacan attorney general said eight decapitated bodies had been found in Aguililla. Local media reported that at least 900 residents have fled the violence in recent weeks.
On April 13, the governor of Michoacan, Silvano Aureoles, paid a visit to Aguililla, flanked by armed soldiers. He encountered residents carrying signs demanding state protection.
A video on social media showed Aureoles pushing a man back. The man was later identified as local teacher Fernando Padilla.
“I thought he was going to dialogue with me, but he attacked me instead,” Padilla told Al Jazeera. “And when he pushed me, he said, ‘Shut up, bastard,’” Padilla said. “It was a barbaric and shameful act, an abuse of power.”
Aureoles responded by saying that the “cartel lookouts” had insulted him, as well as the security guards, and that he had “confronted” them. He also pledged to do more for Aguililla.
“Everyone knows what is happening in Aguililla: violence, a near-war situation and roadblocks that do not allow the passage of basic necessities, even seriously ill people who cannot be transferred to the city. ‘hospital,’ he said on Twitter.
“I am not going to remain silent or with folded arms in front of those who want to continue sowing violence and chaos, by mocking authority and the law,” he wrote. “I will recover Aguililla from the hands of the criminals.”
Everyone knows what is happening in Aguililla: violence, a near-war situation and roadblocks that do not allow the passage of basic necessities, even seriously ill patients who cannot be transferred to the hospital. .
– Silvano Aureoles (@Silvano_A) April 13, 2021
Translation: Everyone knows what is happening in Aguililla: the violence, a near-war situation and roadblocks that do not allow the passage of basic necessities, even for seriously ill patients who cannot be transferred In a hospital.
Meanwhile, the city remains under siege. Local media reported on Wednesday that Aguililla City Council had launched a petition to state and federal authorities asking them to ensure safe transit inside and outside the city.
“It’s a game of cat and mouse,” Gilberto Vergara, the parish priest of Aguililla, also a member of the city council, reportedly said at the meeting. “The ironic thing is that we no longer know who is who, because we no longer know who is stalking who.”