Mexican villagers who killed extortionists ‘acted in self-defence’

Members of the State Police stand guard in the Texcapilla sector, in the town of Texcaltitlan, in the central State of Mexico, Mexico, 11 December 2023
Image caption,Hundreds of police have been deployed to Texcapilla after the deadly incident

By Vanessa Buschschlüter

BBC News

Mexican villagers who killed 10 members of the notorious Familia Michoacana criminal gang will not be facing any charges after prosecutors ruled they had acted in self-defence.

Prosecutors said that the residents of Texcapilla had come “under constant threat” from the gang, which had tried to extort money from farmers.

They were summoned to a football pitch where gang members opened fire on them.

But they fought back with weapons including shotguns and machetes.

Ten members of the Familia Michoacana and four of the locals were killed in the deadly fight which followed. Seven more people were injured.

In the weeks since what locals have dubbed “the massacre on the football field”, the residents of Texcapilla have been telling the authorities how the Familia Michoacana had wielded its power in the village.

While local business people have long had to pay “protection money” to the gang, the Familia Michoacana has extended its extortion racket to those who work the land.

Gang members demanded that farmers pay a fee to the group for every square metre of the fields they planted, a sort of criminal ground rent.

But after a particularly poor harvest this year, local farmers tried to negotiate a reduced fee in a meeting held on 7 December, to no avail.

It was after this failed meeting that the gang ordered the farmers to gather at the football pitch for what sounded like a noon showdown the next day.

Shortly before that meeting, the farmers agreed to stand up to the gang and refuse to pay altogether.

Prosecutors from the state of Mexico, where Texcapilla is located, have determined that the gang opened fire first and that the farmers defended themselves with “the tools of their trade”, which included sickles, machetes and shotguns.

Among those killed was reportedly the leader of the Familia Michoacana in Mexico state, a man known as “El Payaso” , Spanish for “the clown”.

While the farmers appear to have scored a victory on the day, locals have been living in fear of reprisals since the deadly confrontation.

They are particularly concerned about the fate of 14 villagers, among them four children, who disappeared in the days after the confrontation.

One of them was abducted from the hospital where he was being treated for an injury sustained during the fight with the Familia Michoacana.

Nine others, including the four missing children, were seized as they were travelling by car in the area some days later.

It is feared they have been taken by the Familia Michoacana.

Hundreds of members of the National Guard have been deployed to the area to protect the villagers.

The governor of Mexico state, Delfina Gómez, has promised residents that officials will not abandon them: “I tell you, you are not alone, we are with you.”

Security officials say they want to prevent the emergence of a vigilante force, as has happened in the past in other rural regions of Mexico.

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