MEXICO CITY – Eleven suspected La Familia Michoacana hit men were killed and 36 purported members of that criminal organization were arrested in a Federal Police operation on the border between the western Mexican states of Michoacan and Jalisco, the federal Public Safety Secretariat said Saturday.
Police detected members of the La Familia gang in the town of Las Lomas, Jalisco, where, in addition to those killed and arrested in the clash, two officers were wounded, the secretariat said in a statement.
Authorities said the detainees have ties to Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, one of the top leaders of La Familia, a criminal organization that specializes in manufacturing synthetic drugs and smuggling them from Michoacan to the United States.
On Tuesday in Michoacan, a Federal Police helicopter was forced to land after being hit by gunfire from the ground and two officers were wounded.
While investigating the aggression, the police learned that the gunmen were planning to meet Friday in Las Lomas, a town on the border between the states of Michoacan and Jalisco, and launched an operation to capture the suspects, the secretariat said.
It added that the shootout occurred after the police were attacked with gunfire upon their arrival in Las Lomas.
Elsewhere, five men were killed by suspected cartel enforcers riding in two vehicles on the streets of the northern Mexican industrial city of Monterrey, capital of Nuevo Leon state, bringing to 17 the number of people slain in that metropolis in recent days, officials said.
Friday’s attack – the third deadly incident since Wednesday in the Monterrey metropolitan area – occurred at the intersection of two streets in the southern La Estanzuela neighborhood, near a stand for unlicensed taxis.
The gunmen riding in two SUVs fired at four taxi drivers but another man who had just gotten off a bus also was hit by the gunfire.
Some so-called “pirate taxi drivers” work as informants for organized criminal gangs, using radios and cellphones to report movements of army soldiers or marines.
Mexican media reported that the killings occurred near a kindergarten and showed a video in which the children can be seen singing a song amid the assault-rifle fire.
In the video, which has been uploaded to YouTube, the teacher tells the youngsters not to be afraid, that nothing will happen to them but that they must stay on the floor.
Since last year, the Nuevo Leon government has begun offering training courses to thousands of teachers so they know how to react to shootings, whether inside the schools or in their immediate vicinity.
The crime occurred less than 24 hours after suspected cartel hit men carried out another multiple slaying in northern Monterrey, where gunmen on board moving vehicles killed six young people.
On Wednesday, six suspected cartel members were killed and four members of a family were wounded during a clash between army soldiers and gunmen in the Monterrey suburb of Guadalupe.
Nuevo Leon and neighboring Tamaulipas state have been rocked by a wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers bat
tling for control of smuggling routes into the United States.
More than 1,300 people, including about 80 police officers, have died in the violence in Nuevo Leon in the past 14 months.
On Friday, the archbishop of the northwestern border city of Tijuana said that Mexican priest Salvador Ruiz Enciso, reported missing last Sunday in the northern city of Tijuana, was killed.
“We condemn the brutal manner in which they took his life and we trust in the authorities so that those responsible will be brought to justice,” Rafael Romo Muñoz said in a statement.
Ruiz Enciso went missing last weekend from the Divino Rostro church in Tijuana’s La Mesa district.
On Monday, police found the semi-charred body of a man with his hands and feet tied at a property in a Tijuana neighborhood and DNA testing later showed that the remains were those of the priest.
The archbishop said in the statement that “Father Chavita,” as he was affectionately known by his parishioners, was a “simple man who was devoted to his ministry.”
During the investigation, the police found 300 pornographic videos that members of the local community said were presumably “planted” by members of organized crime after the priest had denounced organized-crime activity in nearby neighborhoods.