The latest in the dark parade of massacres happened Friday morning at an isolated ranch in a Michoacán municipality called Ecuandureo, at the state border with Jalisco, not far from where a mayoral candidate and former self-defense leader was gunned down at a campaign event a week earlier.
As always, there are conflicting accounts of what went down — the official versions, the press versions, the eyewitness versions and the conspiracy theorist versions. All preceding plurals are intentional.
But we can synthesis the gist of it. About 10 days before the event, some 50 armed men took over the virtually deserted ranch and told the nearby villagers, who were in the habit of grazing their cattle there, to stay away. On May 22, the Federal Police came to get them out.
There ensued a three-hour “confrontation,” with at least 100 feds shooting from various positions around the 112-hectare ranch, supported by a helicopter When it was over, 42 of the men were dead, and three arrested. Five fled. One police officer was killed.
A 42-1 kill differential sounds more like a planned massacre than a battle. The local villagers who were there to watch the proceedings certainly come down on the massacre side.
“I could see everything,” one of them told the online news site Animal Político. “It was from the helicopter . . . that they finished everyone off.” The victims, he said, “never had much of a chance.”
Those victims, it should be noted, are said to be members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, the same criminal organization that on May 1 set fires across Jalisco and downed an Army helicopter in a terrifying show of strength.
The helicopter victims on that day were army, not police, but public opinion seems to be leaning toward the interpretation that this was a planned attack under Operation Jalisco, the joint federal offensive that took effect the day of the Jalisco fires, with a pinch of retaliation flavoring it.
The authorities, however, are sticking with their assertion that what happened was a confrontation instigated by the criminals inside the ranch. They took that message to the press again on Monday, which resulted in front page stories this morning in most papers, with heads similar to El Universal's lead, “Tanhuato was not an execution, the PF assures.”
Tanhuato is the nearby town within the municipality that emerged as the shorthand reference to the event, though some media use Ecuandureo. PF is the Federal Police.
Okay then, comes the obvious press question, if they started it, how come 42 of them ended up dead to just one of yours?
Federal Police head Enrique Galindo’s response sounded flip but he seemed to mean it. The police, he said, are highly trained, while the narcos were surely stoned.
Then, in what could only have been an allusion to the weapon New Generation used to shoot down the army chopper on May 1, he said, “We were lucky they weren’t using a rocket launcher.”
If you study a lot of online readers’ comments (not recommended) you’ll notice that the anger after the May 1 attack by New Generation was aimed at the government for letting it happen, while the anger after the May 22 attack against New Generation was also aimed at the government, for making it happen.
This is nothing new. The government, especially the federal government, is blamed for half of the bad things that happen in the country. The other half is blamed on the U.S government