In one of the bloodiest battles with a drug cartel in western Mexico to date, federal authorities killed 42 criminal suspects with only one police officer lost. Some people are now questioning whether the authorities are resorting to unfair shootouts with suspects, even resorting to shooting suspects after they have surrendered.
Experts are familiar with these tactics, as similar scenarios have happened before. According to AFP, former intelligence agency official Alejandro Hope remembered a municipality in central Mexico where soldiers unjustly killed 22 gang suspects in June 2014. At first, officials described the situation as a shootout, but later prosecutors charged three soldiers with the murder of eight of the suspects. The suspects had already surrendered. In the “shootout,” only one soldier was wounded.
“They have to demonstrate that this was not another Tlatlaya.”
The El Sol ranch in western Mexico was not the scene of another Tlatlaya, insists authorities. They say suspected henchmen of the Jalisco New Generation Drug Cartel engaged with them in a three-hour gunfight in Tanhuato, Michoacan state.
National Security commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido claim the authorities were able to keep from losing more people “thanks to the training and equipment of federal forces that participated in the actions.”
Samuel Gonzalez, a former anti-drug prosecutor, believes the lopsided victory is possible and plausible.
“The element of surprise was one of the factors,” he said.
Raul Benitez Manaut, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, disagreed with federal forces and the experts who thought the fight was fair. He believed the drug cartel offered no resistance.
“It was a very uneven fight. A battle where 42 die on one side and only one on the other is not a battle,” Manaut claimed.
Former intelligence agency official Alejandro Hope doesn’t believe the battle was accurately portrayed by the federal forces, either.
“A lot of details are missing. We don’t know how many people participated in the police and military operation. We don’t know if the helicopter (used in the operation) was armed. There are still a lot of doubts. The number of weapons seized doesn’t match the number of dead and detained.”
Authorities say more than 30 weapons were seized from the area, according to the BBC.
Investigators from Michoacan state and national human rights commissions were on scene looking for clues to what happened.
Authorities were already burning items in the ranch’s main house, according to AFP.
“We are burning trash. It was very dirty. There were clothes and rotten food,” said a state police officer.
Now federal forces and locals in western Mexico will have to wait and see if or when the Jalisco New Generation Drug Cartel will respond or retaliate.