Photo: Courtesy of El Blog Del Narco
Mexico’s bloody drug war escalated this week in the western states of Nayarit and Michoacán, raising fresh fears that large swaths of Mexico have descended into lawlessness.Gunfights between rival drug gangs left 29 dead in Nayarit Wednesday, according to the AP. Police found the bodies, all male and dressed in fake military uniforms, along the highway around 14 bullet-ridden trucks and SUVs.
The fight was apparently a battle between the powerful Sinaloa Cartel – which has long been active in Nayarit – and Los Zetas, a violent paramilitary gang.
In nearby Michoacán state, three days of gun battles forced hundreds of people to leave their homes. The number of casualties are not known.
Officials said about 800 people were displaced to shelters when fighting broke out Monday. Some of the refugees started to return home after the fighting abated Wednesday.
The surge in violence is likely due to the break up of the La Familia cartel, which dominated Mexico’s methamphetamine trade from Michoacán, the gang’s home turf. La Familia has been in disarray since its messianic leader, Nazario “El Mas Loco” Moreno, was killed in December.
A new gang, “The Knights Templar,” emerged in Michoácan in March. The Templars is thought to be made up of former La Familia members led by Servando “La Tuta” Gomez. Authorities believe another La Familia leader may be fighting with Gomez for control.
Unlike Mexico’s other drug gangs, La Familia and its successors have a stated social purpose and cartel members work to provide for the poor and galvanize support among the local population. Corruption is widespread in Michoacán; La Familia is thought to have infiltrated all levels of municipal and state government.
The federal government is increasingly concerned that Michoacán – a strategic point between Mexico City and Guadalajara – has become virtually ungovernable. As the Wall Street Journal points out today, the state is a good example of why some U.S. military analysts and government officials worry that Mexico’s drug wars could quickly become an insurgency.
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