A group of Mexican farmers have been allowed to walk free despite killing 10 members of a cartel with sickles and shotguns in a “football field massacre”.
The villagers engaged in a showdown with the gangsters earlier this month after they refused to pay them protection money.
Armed with sickles, machetes and shotguns, the villagers killed 10 members of the notorious Familia Michoacana cartel at a football field in Texcapilla on Dec 8, and lost four of their own.
Despite the showdown being dubbed by locals as “the massacre on the football field”, prosecutors from the state of Mexico concluded that cartel members had opened fire first and that the farmers had acted in self-defence with “the tools of their trade”.
‘Under constant threat’
Prosecutors said that the rural community of Texcapilla had been “under constant threat” from the Familia Michoacana cartel, which extorted money from farmers by charging them protection fees according to the size of the land they planted.
After a poor harvest this year, the farmers met with cartel representatives the day before the showdown to negotiate a lower fee. However, they were unsuccessful and decided to band together and reiterate their demands at the football pitch.
As well as the 14 dead, seven people were injured in the battle. Among those killed was the local leader of the Michoacana cartel, who went by the name “el Payaso”, or the Clown.
Cartel exacts its revenge
Local authorities fear that the cartel has already exacted revenge for the defeat, with 14 villagers having disappeared in the days after the battle, including four children.
Delfina Gómez, the governor of Mexico state, told Texcapilla residents that officials would not abandon them: “I tell you, you are not alone; we are with you.”
But the threat of violence from criminal gangs has led some Mexicans to seek protection by hiring private security forces.
For example, also in the state of Mexico, chicken merchants from the city of Toluca have hired vigilantes to protect them from reprisals after they stopped paying extortion fees to criminal gangs. Last week four Toluca chicken traders were kidnapped in their warehouse and driven away in vans by armed men.