2 more officers shot to death in Mexico’s most dangerous city for police as cartel violence rages: „It hurts“

Two police officers were shot to death in the embattled Mexican city of Celaya amid a wave of targeted attacks that authorities said Thursday were likely carried out by a drug cartel.

A total of 18 Celaya police officers have been shot to death so far this year, making the city of a half million inhabitants probably the most dangerous city in the hemisphere for police.

„This is something that worries us a lot, and more than that it hurts,“ President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said of the attacks.

Authorities confirmed that gunmen opened fire on police in at least four different locations in and around Celaya on Wednesday. Police sources and the federal government said the brutal Santa Rosa de Lima gang appears to have been behind the attacks.

An employee of the 300-member Celaya police force who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter said that gunmen opened fire on three unarmed municipal traffic officers while they were setting up a checkpoint to check vehicle registrations.

Mexico Violence
Municipal police officers patrol a neighborhood in Celaya, Guanajuato state, Mexico, Feb. 28, 2024.

Fernando Llano / AP

The employee said two officers died in the attack and a third was wounded and in stable condition at a local hospital.

López Obrador said the attacks have become brutal and indiscriminate, and blamed lenient or corrupt judges.

„Why bother the traffic cops?“ López Obrador said. „Moreover, they were not carrying guns.“

The president said the attacks may have been related to a judge’s decision in June to grant a form of bail release to the son of the imprisoned founder of the Santa Rosa cartel. The son had been arrested in January on charges of illegal possession of weapons and drugs.

López Obrador on Thursday displayed a report of the attacks, indicating one set of gunmen attacked the traffic officers on a street in broad daylight. Soon after, gunmen hit another police patrol car with bullets, but apparently caused no injuries, and then sprayed a local police building with gunfire, also with no apparent injuries.

But police also came under attack later Wednesday in the nearby town of Villagran, 12 miles west of Celaya, reportedly wounding an officer seriously.

The Celaya police employee said members of the force feel they have not been given adequate support by the federal and state governments, and left the relatively small local police contingent to deal with the vicious Santa Rosa gang mostly alone.

López Obrador has cut off most of the federal funding once used to train police forces in Mexico, opting to spend the money instead on creating the quasi-military, 117,000-officer National Guard.

However, the military-trained Guard officers mostly perform routine patrols, not the kind of investigations and arrests that police do. Moreover, López Obrador is now pressing for a Constitutional reform to turn the Guard – currently nominally overseen by the Public Safety Department – to complete military control.

State plagued by cartel-related violence

Celaya is located in the north-central state of Guanajuato where more police were shot to death in 2023 – about 60 – than in all of the United States.

Guanajuato has the highest number of homicides of any state in Mexico, largely due to drug cartel violence. For years, the Santa Rosa cartel has fought a bloody turf war with the Jalisco cartel for control of Guanajuato.

In addition to police, politicians and civilians have also been targeted. Just last month, a baby and a toddler were among six members of the same family murdered in Guanajuato. In April, a mayoral candidate was shot dead in the street in Guanajuato just as she began campaigning.

Last December, 11 people were killed and another dozen were wounded in an attack on a pre-Christmas party in the state. Just days before that, the bodies of five university students were found stuffed in a vehicle on a dirt road Guanajuato.

The U.S. State Department urges American to reconsider traveling to Guanajuato. „Of particular concern is the high number of murders in the southern region of the state associated with cartel-related violence,“ the department says in a travel advisory.

Mexico has recorded more than 450,000 murders since 2006, when the government deployed the military to fight drug trafficking, most of them blamed on criminal gangs.

AFP contributed to this report.

Source link