Mexico sends 1,500 security forces to southern region plagued by gangs

  • World
  • Tuesday, 26 Sep 2023

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's government sent over 1,500 security officials including National Guard, army and police to the south of the country on Monday in a bid to shore up security in an area under increasing pressure from organized crime.

The taskforce was deployed to the Frontera Comalapa region in the border state of Chiapas "to guarantee peace," the federal and state governments said in a joint statement.

It comes after a video on social media went viral over the weekend purportedly showing a convoy of armed drug cartel members in Frontera Comalapa being applauded by local residents as they drove to "liberate" the town from a rival cartel.

Reuters could not independently verify whether the video showed cartel gunmen.

Some local reporters said residents were forced to applaud.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador downplayed the footage in a regular press conference earlier on Monday.

"Support bases may exist in some parts of the country... but it's not a general issue," he said. "It's a matter very limited to a region and the National Guard is already being deployed."

He said there were gangs around Frontera Comalapa and the nearby town of Motozintla "presumably fighting over territory" to traffic drugs coming in from Central America. "Fortunately, there haven't been many murders in Chiapas," he said.

Nevertheless, official data show that in the first eight months of 2023, murders in the state bordering Guatemala rose by 16% to 348 from 300 in the same period a year earlier.

Nationwide, murders are down slightly in 2023 compared to last year, but they remain significantly above the average levels during the previous six-year administration.

Another unverified video posted on social media on Monday and reportedly taken in Motozintla showed four people apparently lying dead after being shot by gunmen.

(Reporting by Isabel Woodford; Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Ana Isabel Martinez; Editing by Dave Graham and Michael Perry)

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