A longstanding feud over a wind-power project has boiled over into grisly violence, after at least 15 people were bludgeoned to death with stones and cement blocks, and some bodies were partly burned.
The government of the Pacific coast community of San Mateo del Mar in Oaxaca state said Monday that 13 men and two women were killed in what he described as an attack by a group of dissident townspeople on Sunday.
But dissidents who successfully opposed wind power projects in the largely Indigenous area say the mayor’s followers ambushed them at a coronavirus checkpoint and began shooting. The dissidents said “several” people were wounded but did not provide an exact figure on those wounded by gunshots.
The prosecutors office in the southern state confirmed the figure of 15 dead, and said a detachment of four detectives, 80 state police and 39 National Guard members had been sent to the scene of the killings.
It was not clear whether the confrontations Saturday and Sunday in San Mateo del Mar began at one of the “sanitary” checkpoints that have sprung up in recent months to stem the spread of coronavirus.
The area has been coveted for its open, windy coast, and the two sides have been feuding for years. The conflicts date back to 2012 when a consortium of companies tried to build a huge, 396-megawatt off-shore wind farm planned for a narrow spit of land in a lagoon near San Mateo.
The opponents managed to block the project, arguing it would affect their fishing, farming and sacred spaces.
Many residents belong to the Ikoots Indigenous group, sometimes known as the Huaves.
The killings were announced on the same day that Public Safety Secretary Alfonso Durazo praised the south-eastern part of the country, where Oaxaca is located, as the safest part of the country.
“The southeast is particularly giving the best results in public safety, which is not easy anywhere, but specifically in the southeast the crime rate is much, much less serious than in the rest of the country,” Durazo said.
That was in part because, before Sunday, the most spectacular violence was occurring in the north, in states like Guanajuato, which now accounts for about 15% to 20% of all the country’s homicides.
Attention was dominated by a weekend roundup of gang members in Guanajuato, which unleashed reprisal burning of vehicles by the Santa Rosa de Lima gang. That gang is fighting a bloody turf battle against the Jalisco cartel for control of the state.
On Monday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the crackdown on the gang was carried out becaue “we cannot let the situation fall into chaos, anarchy … Guanajuato is a situation we have faced for some time now, and we had to act to prevent more bloodshed.”