Mexico’s new National Guard force suffered its first casualty in the line of duty, when an officer was killed in a shootout with a gang.
The National Guard was launched by President Andres Manuel López Obrador in late June and is an amalgam of military police and federal police. It is supposed to be Mexico’s front-line force for fighting gangs.
The federal Security Department said three suspects were killed in the confrontation Saturday in Yuriria township in the north-central state of Guanajuato. However, the Yuriria municipal government said five suspects were killed in the shootout, three wounded and seven detained.
The town said the National Guard patrol was attacked when “they detected a safe house operated by a criminal gang. One member of the National Guard was killed.”
Guanajuato has been hit by violence involving gangs that steal fuel from government pipelines. After the government cracked down on pipeline thefts, some gangs appear to have moved into extortion, hitting the city of Celaya so hard that some businesses have closed.
But the violence has gotten even worse in the neighboring state of Michoacan, where a drug cartel hung nine bodies from an overpass and scattered 10 more on a highway Thursday.
On Saturday, the Michoacan state government announced it was sending 120 more state police to guard the city of Uruapan, where the killings occurred. The state said it will set up checkpoints on all roads leading into the city.
Amid all the bloodshed, the unlikeliest of heroes emerged: a hot dog and hamburger vendor who kept serving clients from his stall under the overpass, even as half-naked bodies dangled by their necks nearby. The vendor told the newspaper El Universal that he heard a body drop with a thud onto the roadway, but never stopped cooking and waiting on customers.
“They were hanging all over the place,” the vendor, identified as Isidro Garcia, told El Universal. “I don’t focus much on that, I just mind my own business.”