United and organized, the residents of this Mixtec municipality of Puebla managed to remove from their territory supposed Sinaloan businessmen who arrived with the pretense that they would invest in a pig farm, when in reality they installed and operated a laboratory for the production of synthetic drugs.
The “La Cástula” area, where the alleged businessmen left 51 50-liter drums and 28 200-liter barrels with chemicals, two scales and 12 burners, has been secured since June 22 by the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) and is guarded by elements of the Army and the National Guard.
In this town, especially in the Auxiliary Board of Zaragoza – where the secure property is located – there is a climate of tension.
The residents say they are surprised that, despite what happened, the federal authorities have not implemented patrols in the area, nor issued any reports.
The news about the drug laboratory was barely published as news in some local media.
Only municipal and state patrols travel on the desolate highways and local roads, but the inhabitants distrust these corporations, as they say that the municipal president, Abel Chávez Orea, was close to the owners of the property and, they themselves, boasted that they have “influences” in the state government.
“We in Puebla have good influence with the government, we are fine (with them), thank God,” one of the Sinaloans is heard saying in an audio provided to Proceso.
Chávez came to the municipal presidency for the Progressive Social Networks party, but is now seeking re-election for Morena, with the support of Julio Huerta Gómez, former Secretary of the Interior of Puebla, candidate for governor for that party and cousin of the late governor Miguel Barbosa Huerta.
It was last June 17, in an open assembly, when more than 500 residents decided to declare the supposed Sinaloan investors who had arrived in the municipality more than a month and a half as “non grata” persons. They were given a deadline of the 21st of that month to leave.
One day after these people left Coatzingo – on June 20 – the neighbors went to the place where the Sinaloans operated and discovered that they had left dairy farms that “smelled very bad.” Then they informed the authorities, who only came to secure the place, without any arrests.
Almost three months after those events, the residents say they do not know what type of drug was made in the alleged laboratory; They claim that only one member of the FGR, who came a few days ago, confirmed that the substances tested positive for precursors for the production of narcotics. Officially he hasn’t told them anything.
The residents are also not sure if the subjects who were expelled from that town belonged to a criminal group. By inference, after two identified themselves as originating from Culiacán, they presume that they may be part of the Sinaloa Cartel. But, although they have asked the authorities, they perceive an official silence regarding these events.
To date, the residents are not clear if the alleged criminals left those chemicals and instruments on the land because they no longer had space in the truck they used when evicted “La Cástula” or if they intended to return to recover the material, but They could no longer do so due to the presence of the military.
A group of neighbors has asked the mayor and councilors to, after these events, call on the federation to strengthen the protection of the area, but they have had no response.
The municipal president has even called the complainants “gossips” and has revealed that the barrels – which are guarded by the Army and the National Guard – actually contain diesel and water.
“The government is not giving it the importance it should, requests have already been made, we have already spoken with the governor and so far, we have not seen anything,” declares one of the neighbors interviewed under the condition of anonymity and who points out that the greatest concern that they have is for the safety of their families.
The inhabitants have noticed that every day, around ten in the morning, a small plane flies over the area and off-road vehicles and motorcycles circulate nearby.
There are versions in the area that the same alleged businessmen rented land in San Mateo Mimiapan, municipality of Zacapala, and that they could be in the town of Patlanoaya, Ahuatlán, in the same region.
The neighbors report that they submitted a letter to the 25th Military Zone to request that a detachment be permanently installed in this town, but they have not received a response.
Although there are military and federal elements in the secured land, they do not carry out patrols. “In addition, the biggest problem may come when they (the military) leave,” says one of the interviewees.
The Binational Council of Mexican Community Organizations (CBOC), which integrates nationals from Puebla living in southern California, United States, delivered a letter to Governor Salomón Céspedes Peregrina to express concern about the situation of insecurity that is being experienced. in the Mixteca region, especially Coatzingo and Ahuatlán, “where the presence of organized crime cells is presumed to exist.”
“We are fine with the government”
There were multiple reasons to suspect the outsiders who spoke with a marked northern accent and had more than 15 “plebes” working in the hidden terrain, on the border with Ahuatlán and on the banks of the Atoyac River.
“Why come from Culiacán, Sinaloa, to set up a pig farm in a remote area with very difficult access?” asks one of the neighbors, who adds that they have never seen a single pig.
Another reason was that they traveled most of the time after midnight and, instead of using the road, they did so on trails, in off-road vehicles and with cargo trucks.
“The municipal president told us that they were good, hard-working people, that he wanted to invest in the town,” he remembers. “But since we saw those people, we realized that they were not country people. “They gave us a bad feeling.”
Furthermore, the workers of the supposed employers began to engage in arrogant behavior towards the population, such as “burning tires” in front of a school or threatening anyone who approached the land where they were installed.
On June 13, a group of residents met at the municipal presidency with three of them: one born in Tijuana, but with family in the neighboring town of Tenango, and the other two from Culiacán, who said they were the owners of the farm.
After being introduced by the municipal president, the subjects offered them that they could also rent their lands to them. “We come to work,” is heard in the recording that this medium has, “we want to plant corn and tomatoes and bring in cattle and pigs and make fertilizer.”
–And why did they choose Coatzingo? –the residents asked.
–As the (municipal) president said, sometimes we search for lands by satellite, So we look for quiet areas to work.
–But who told you that it is quiet here? Here we have insecurity problems and more so in that area where they settled – the neighbors refuted them.
–This is what they have already told us, but we in Puebla have good influence with the government; We are fine, thank God, so we can do any little thing, that is, pay attention to the people and send for the government, or something like that, any little detail. We have a good influence there; we are good there.
And still, as if to finish convincing them, the businessmen added: “We bring a good culture, because as I say, someone who tells you ‘well, I come from Jalisco, they are going to say, well, you are going to charge me an apartment’, I am from Sinaloa and thank To God, we Sinaloans where we stand are well and we are workers and we are a source of income for many people.”
The group of residents proposed to the businessmen that they appear at a public assembly and that the people decide if they could stay.
One of the neighbors narrates that on that occasion they were asked for voter credentials to identify them, but only one of them had it, and the others agreed to present it the next day, which never happened.
The day after that meeting, Chávez Orea called the members of the Irrigation System and offered them 1,500 liters of diesel as support from the “businessmen,” but the group did not accept them.
Although the councilor later refused to call the open assembly, the residents did so on their own.
The meeting took place on June 17 and was published in full on Facebook. About 500 neighbors confronted the councilor and complained that he had not consulted them to allow these individuals to settle in the community.
Mayor Chávez Orea denied any link or interest with the investors and argued that they showed up when they had already contacted the owner of the land to rent it.
“Shall I tell you something? “A criminal never appears before the authorities,” justified the municipal president to convince them to be present when the councilor called the owner of the area to arrange for him to rent it to businessmen.
By majority vote, the neighbors drew up an act to order the “people of Sinaloa” to “take out their things” and leave that municipality.
On June 19, residents, municipal authorities of Coatzingo and neighboring Ahuatlán, as well as the businessmen themselves were summoned to the state Secretary of the Interior, in the city of Puebla, to mediate a solution to the conflict.
However, on that day Chávez Orea informed the attendees that the Sinaloans would not appear because they had already decided to leave the place.
“The (municipal) president told us that the only thing they asked was that we do not touch their things because then there would be problems,” says one of the witnesses.
He adds that the director of Delegations of the state Ministry of the Interior, Edgar Alejandro Gómez Ríos, reproached the neighbors who, due to their conflictive position, had lost an important investment for that community.
Last June 20, people came to Coatzingo to take their things in a truck and van. The next day the locals went to the property where they found the dairy farms and reported them to the authorities.
Here the locals have organized community rounds for years, together with their neighbors from Huehuetlán el Grande and San Juan Epatlán, to counteract the insecurity that plagues the Mixteca of Puebla, a strategic region for crime due to having multiple roads, sidewalks and roads that are poorly monitored and connect Guerrero, Oaxaca, Morelos and Mexico City.
In 2012, dozens of residents, including countrymen living in California, grouped together to fight, together with the authorities, a gang of kidnappers that operated in these municipalities.
Before, insecurity came from local criminal groups. But now, national cartels operate in most of the municipalities of this region, in particular Los Rojos – near Guerrero – and the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel. Thus, dismemberment, bagging and mass executions have become a daily occurrence in the Mixteca region.
However, the presence of the National Guard is almost non-existent. According to the inhabitants, there was a base at the Las Palomas intersection, between Telcingo and Acatlán, and another in the municipality of Jolalpan, but they were removed years ago.
The community patrols, called the Poblana Territorial Force, made it possible to detect the vehicles of the supposed Sinaloan businessmen, say those interviewed; Otherwise they could be that they were still operating in “La Cástula”. Also, they add, the firm reaction they assumed in the assembly had to do with it.
And it is possible that the “pseudo businessmen” feared ending up as victims of a lynching, a phenomenon very present in Puebla.
In Mixteca, the self-defense groups came to group more than 700 armed residents, but on July 21, 2022, the leader of Fuerza Territorial Poblana, Eloy Merino Mendoza, and five other members were murdered in an ambush, presumably by the criminal group Los Rojos.
At the same time, then-governor Miguel Barbosa Huerta accused the group of acting “illegally,” which weakened and divided the organization.