Michoacán: Indigenous Communities Under Siege from Organized Crime

Cover image: Residents of the Nahua community of Santa María Ostula. Photo: Regina López

Through a statement released Saturday, June 15, Indigenous Nahuas of Santa María Ostula denounced new attacks against their community, taking place within a context of escalating violence including armed invasions and assassinations occurring since 2023. These attacks have continued without any response from state or federal authorities.

On June 13, a group of 30 heavily armed members of Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), attacked a community member of the Encargatura de la Cofradia—one of the 23 populations that make up Ostula—in the municipality of Aquila, on the Michoacán sierra coast.

On this occasion, the armed group shot at a community member who was working in the fields, who was only able to survive by seeking refuge in the security checkpoint set up by the Communal Guard of Ostula due to the constant attacks from the CJNG.

This checkpoint was installed after February 6 when the same population suffered a violent attack from the criminal group, forcing residents to suspend work and school activities for weeks due to the seriousness of the armed aggressions.

There were also attacks at the end of March and beginning of April carried out against the neighboring communities of Coahuayana and Chinicuila. At that time, hundreds of men from Colima used high caliber guns, as well as explosives and drones, in an attempt to take control of the territories.

With the response from self-defense groups and communal guards of the municipalities of Cuahuayana and Aquila, they were able to stop the advance of the criminal group. However, local journalists report that the CJNG has retaken control in the localities of Palos Marías, El Órgano and Zapotan, “causing terror in the communities and displacement,” shares local media.

Assassinations, Disappearances

The armed aggressions don’t stop there. In the month of May, residents of Ostula denounced the assassination of the community member Antonio Regis Nicolás, while he was traveling with his family to the Encargatura de la Mina of La Providencia.

Antonio Regis Nicolás, community member of Ostula, assassinated in May. Photos: Comunicación Ostula

At that moment, the community denounced that the government, both state and federal, knows about the violence in the region and the aggressions that the community of Ostula is facing. “However, they have refused to take active measures to provide protection to the populations of the region and particularly to the families of our community in the face of the worsening violence of the CJNG,” they sustained in a communique.

The community had demanded the dismantling of the CJNG, as well as the “end of the protection that corrupt police officers and sergeants provide to the cartel.” They also remember the assassination of Lorenzo Forylán de la Cruz Ríos, Isaul Nemesio Zambrano, Miguel Estrada Reyes, and Rolando Magno Zambrano, members of the Communal Guard assassinated in 2023.

The Nahua community members also demand the return of Antonio Díaz and Ricardo Lagunes. Díaz, a professor and community leader of San Miguel de Aquila, and Lagunes, a lawyer and human rights defender, have been missing since January 15, 2023, when they were traveling between Michoacán and Colima after participating in a community assembly.

Both were in charge of the legal defense of the population of Aquila, to guarantee free elections of communal authorities and the fulfillment of agreements with the mining company Las Encinas, property of Ternium.

The violent events took place just days before the Nahua community celebrated the 15th anniversary of the recuperation of more than 1,000 hectares of communal lands in what is now the Encargatura de San Diego Xayacalán.

In 2009, the Indigenous Nahuas organized to recuperate the lands that had been taken from them by landowners from Colima, who are linked to the Knights Templar Cartel. Due to their struggle, between the years of 2008 and 2014 alone, 32 community members were assassinated and another six forcefully disappeared.



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