MEXICO CITY — The ongoing bloodshed in the western Mexican state of Michoacan took another grisly turn when 20 people were murdered at a clandestine cockfight.
An armed group allegedly entered the underground cockfight gambling den in the town of Zinapecuaro and gunned down the attendees, leaving behind 100 bullet shells, according to the Michoacan State Prosecutor’s Office. Authorities said they discovered 16 men and three women dead at the crime scene in the early morning of March 28, while another died on the way to the hospital. At least four others were injured but have survived.
Authorities said members of a local criminal group were hanging around the site of the cockfights after the event ended. Several people then descended from a truck and opened fire inside the building, while another vehicle created a blockade outside, according to their initial investigation. Several vehicles of the victims were discovered outside the crime scene, and the police claimed they discovered clothing and stickers with the logo of a criminal group that operates in the state.
While police did not initially name the aggressors or victims in the attack, the Michoacan state secretary later told local media that several of the dead were members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, or CJNG for its Spanish acronym. He also said that the aggressors came from a group known as Los Correa Cartel. VICE World News could not independently verify the authorities’ version of events.
Michoacan has for years been ground zero for a conflict principally between the CJNG, and a coalition of local groups collectively known as the United Cartels. But other criminal groups like Los Correa also operate in the state.
Sunday’s slaughter came one month after a massacre in the town of San Jose de Gracia, about three hours west in Michoacan. Video of the incident showed people being lined up against a wall outside of a funeral venue, then being assassinated. The exact body count of the funeral murders is still unknown because it’s believed that the executioners took the corpses and disposed of them.
Michoacan authorities said they found DNA evidence of at least 11 different victims, while some reports claim that 17 were murdered on February 28. Mexico’s Sub-secretary of Public Security, Ricardo Mejía, claimed that the funeral executions were the result of an internal dispute between different cells of the CJNG.
Michoacan has been overwhelmed with violence for nearly two decades with ever-changing criminal groups fighting over everything from extortion rackets and avocado production, to the state’s prominent ports and drug routes. In recent years, criminal groups in the region have been at the forefront of using new weapons and tactics in the fight for control. Homemade landmines, drones dropping bombs and jerry-rigged tanks made international headlines when used in the state.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador lamented the March 27 cockfight murders, calling them “a massacre” and said he was sending an additional team to investigate the incident. Cockfighting—a bloodsport where roosters battle while onlookers place bets—is illegal in much of Mexico, but it’s still a popular pastime and fights are routinely held in clandestine rings around the country, known as palenques.