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Mexico: 10 slain in melon patch; online journalist gunned down

March 04, 2013|By Richard Fausset and Daniel Hernandez
  • Community police members take part in the March for Justice and Dignity in the town of Ayutla de los Libres in Guerrero state on Saturday. Hundreds of armed civilians have begun providing security for communities in the state, creating a vigilante force.
Community police members take part in the March for Justice and Dignity… (Pedro Pardo / Agence France-Presse…)

MEXICO CITY – Ten agricultural workers were slain in a melon patch in the state of Guerrero on Sunday, officials and media reported, one of a string of violent incidents in Mexico in recent days presumably committed by organized crime groups.

The attack occurred in the remote and troubled region known as Tierra Caliente, which spreads from north-central Guerrero into the neighboring state of Michoacan. Two people were injured and at least one of the dead was a woman, the reports said, though details remained sketchy.

In the border state of Chihuahua, gunmen killed the editor of an online newspaper Sunday in Ojinaga. And in Sinaloa state, local media reported that seven people, including four police officers, were slain at dawn Monday by armed assailants.

The melon-field attack, reported by Guerrero’s attorney general and Mexico’s state news agency, was among a number of disturbing recent events that underscored the challenge facing new President Enrique Peña Nieto, who inherited the war on organized crime from his predecessor.

Guerrero’s Tierra Caliente region is home to the Knights Templar cartel, which has scared off residents of more than 20 small towns in the nearby Costa Grande area, creating an eerie string of “ghost pueblos.” A recent Times report described how the Knights Templar sought to integrate rural residents into their effort, demanding monthly extortion payments and loyalty pledges.

Some locals said they felt squeezed between the cartel and members of the Mexican army, who have treated them with suspicion and, some allege, violated residents’ human rights.

Guerrero also is struggling with autodefensa groups -- masked and armed men who have sprung up there and in other states, promising to bring vigilante justice in areas they say are not adequately policed by the government.

In Sinaloa, the four slain police officers in El Rosario were reportedly kidnapped from a guard booth. Their bodies were later found at another location, along with those of three civilians, according to the Sinaloa newspaper Noroeste.

The slain Chihuahuan journalist, Jaime Guadalupe González, ran a news website based in Ojinaga, along the border with Texas just west of Big Bend National Park. According to the newspaper El Universal, he was shot 15 times as he was headed to his office to publish a story.

“This site has been suspended,” his news organization, Ojinaga Noticias, declared on an otherwise blank Web page Monday afternoon. “Please come back later.”

Separately, authorities in rural Jalisco state reported finding two Bengal tigers and several deer at a suspected drug lab last week. Drug lords have been known to covet large and endangered animals as trophies to flaunt their wealth, but it was unclear who operated the lab or kept the tigers.

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