MEXICO CITY — A drug cartel in central Mexico has kidnapped 14 local residents, including four children, in apparent retaliation for an uprising by angry farmers earlier this month that killed 10 cartel gunmen, officials said.
Farmers in the village of Texcaltitlan and a neighboring hamlet were apparently fed up with the cartels’ extortion. Armed only with sickles and shotguns, they chased down suspected gang members amid bursts of automatic weapons on December 8, hacking, shooting and burning them. Four villagers also died in the clashes.
Prosecutors said Wednesday evening that the cartel then kidnapped 14 people, including four children ranging in age from 1 1/2 to 14 years old. The kidnapped adults include three police officers who were arrested at a cartel roadblock and an injured villager whom the gang kidnapped from a hospital. shortly after the confrontation.
It is unclear whether the fact that 14 gunmen were killed by the farmers during the clash and 14 people were kidnapped had intended symbolic significance.
José Luis Cervantes, attorney general of Mexico state, located west of the country’s capital, Mexico City, said no ransom demands had been received. Previously, state officials had denied that anyone had been kidnapped and said they were simply “missing.”
But residents of the village and a nearby hamlet said the Familia Michoacana drug cartel was demanding they hand over the leaders of the uprising, in exchange for the release of the kidnapped children and adults.
Cervantes said none of the villagers would be charged for the Dec. 8 clashes because the clash had been called “self-defense” because the farmers were defending their properties.
Gunmen from the Familia Michoacana cartel, which has long dominated the area, had earlier shown up in the village, demanding that local farmers pay extortion fees per acre (hectare) to farmers.
The bloodshed occurred in the hamlet of Texcaltitlan, about 80 miles southwest of the capital. A video of the clash that was released appears to show the gunmen were wearing military-style uniforms, some with helmets. The villagers reportedly set their bodies and vehicles on fire.
In Mexico, drug cartels are known to extort money from almost every legal or illegal business possible, sometimes attacking or burning down ranches, farms or stores that refuse to pay.
La Familia Michoacana is known for its brazen ambushes against police, as well as the 2022 massacre of 20 residents of the town of Totolapan, in the neighboring state of Guerrero. The attack killed the town’s mayor, his father and 18 other men.
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