A longstanding feud over a wind power project has boiled over into grisly violence, after at least 15 people were bludgeoned to death with stones and cement blocks, and some bodies were partly burned.
The government of the Pacific coast community of San Mateo del Mar in Oaxaca state on Monday said that 13 men and two women were killed in what it described as an attack by a group of dissident townspeople on Sunday.
However, dissidents who successfully opposed wind power projects in the area said that the mayor’s followers ambushed them at a COVID-19 checkpoint and began shooting.
The dissidents said that “several” people were wounded, but did not provide an exact figure on those wounded by gunshots.
The Oaxaca Prosecutors’ Office confirmed the figure of 15 dead, and said that a detachment of four detectives, 80 state police and 39 National Guard members had been sent to the scene of the killings.
It was not clear whether the confrontations in San Mateo del Mar began at one of the “sanitary” checkpoints that have sprung up to stem the spread of COVID-19.
The area has been coveted for its open, windy coast, and the two sides have been feuding for years.
The conflicts date back to 2012 when a consortium of companies tried to build a 396-megawatt offshore wind farm planned for a narrow spit of land in a lagoon near San Mateo del Mar.
Residents managed to block the project, arguing that it would affect their fishing, farming and sacred spaces.
Many residents belong to the Ikoots people, sometimes known as the Huaves.
The killings were announced on the same day that Mexican Secretary of Security and Civilian Protection Alfonso Durazo praised the southeastern part of the nation, including Oaxaca state, as the safest part of Mexico.
“The southeast is particularly giving the best results in public safety, which is not easy anywhere, but specifically in the southeast the crime rate is much, much less serious than in the rest of the country,” Durazo said.
That was in part because, before Sunday, the most spectacular violence was occurring in the north, in states such as Guanajuato, which accounts for about 15 to 20 percent of all the nation’s homicides.
Attention was dominated by a weekend roundup of gang members in Guanajuato, which unleashed reprisal burning of vehicles by the Santa Rosa de Lima gang. The gang is fighting a bloody turf battle against the Jalisco cartel.
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