Mexican authorities boasted another take-down of a top narco lord May 29, with the arrest in Jalisco state of Manuel García Orozco, a leader of the New Generation cartel. García Orozco was detained “without a shot fired” at a road checkpoint in Tlajomulco de Zuniga municipality. He is accused of overseeing operations in Jalisco’s Cienega region along the border with Michoacán state, including drug smuggling, fuel theft and extortion. He is also accused of involvement in “various attacks” against security forces, including the abduction and murder of two federal police officers in Michoacán in November 2013. The investigation into their disappearance led to the discovery of 37 clandestine graves containing 75 bodies in the Jalisco municipality of La Barca, near the state line.
But the Mexican state’s battle against the New Generation has got a big image problem—to say the least. On May 22, at least 43 people were killed in a shoot-out between federal police and a gang said to be linked to the New Generation at a ranch in the Michoacán town of Tanhuato near the Jalisco state line. But the official version has been increasingly questioned in the days since then. Survivors gathered at a local morgue to collect bodies of their loved ones told reporters that it wasn’t a shoot-out but a “massacre,” in which unarmed villagers were summarily killed by police. By federal authorities’ own report, only 36 firearms were uncovered at the scene—despite 43 killed. And only one of the dead was a police officer. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has opened its own investigation into what happened at Tanhuato.
The Tanhuato massacre claims echo similar charges in an incident that left a disputed number dead in a supposed confrontation between federal police and a narco-gang at the Michoacán town of Apatzingán earlier this year.