MEXICO CITY (AP) — Drug cartel gunmen burned over two dozen stores and blocked streets with blazing vehicles in western Mexico in a response to a series of arrests of drug cartel figures, authorities said Wednesday.
Images circulated on social media showed men commandeering cars and buses and setting them on fire late Tuesday in the middle of roadways. Others showed burned out convenience stores.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday that soldiers had confronted criminals, including “bosses,” at a “meeting of two gangs” Tuesday in Jalisco state.
The president said there was a shootout, arrests and “this provoked protests of burned vehicles, not only in Jalisco, but also in Guanajuato.”
The U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco state, issued an advisory instructing employees “to follow the advice of local authorities and to shelter in place until further notice.”
“Local authorities and media are reporting multiple road blockades, burning vehicles, and shootouts between Mexican security forces and unspecified criminal elements in various parts of the Guadalajara metropolitan area,” according to consulate.
Oxxo, a national chain of convenience stores owned by Femsa, the country’s largest bottling company, said in a statement that 25 of its stores in Guanajuato — which borders Jalisco, home to the cartel of the same name — were either totally or partially burned.
“Fortunately, all of our employees and customers are all right,” the company said.
Videos showed armed men, some shouting slogans in support of the Jalisco cartel, bursting into convenience stores before setting fires, as occupants of the stores fled.
Videos also showed men commandeering cars and buses and setting them on fire in the middle of roadways.
Guanajuato-based security analyst David Saucedo said the Oxxo stores were apparently chosen because of their ubiquity and light security, rather than because of any dispute with the company.
“They are small stores, there are many throughout the state, they don’t have security like a Walmart or Liverpool (department store) have,” Saucedo said, adding “they are open at night, and everyone recognizes them.”
Cartels often create such chaos in an effort to keep authorities from transporting captured cartel bosses or to protest arrests.
López Obrador said authorities were still deployed Wednesday in the area of Jalisco where the initial arrests were made.
Jalisco Gov. Enrique Alfaro said via Twitter that no one was injured in the destruction that followed the arrests. He said five people had been detained in the raids and one suspect was killed, but did not identify them.
Jalisco is dominated by the Jalisco New Generation cartel, whose leader Nemesio Oseguera, “El Mencho,” is among the most sought by Mexican and U.S. authorities. There was no indication Oseguera was present at the clash. Guanajuato is the scene of a bloody proxy war between Jalisco and the Sinaloa cartel, which operates through local gangs.