World News Day: A town, a massacre, a decade of silence in Mexico's Allende

Nobody in Allende wants to talk about what happened in the city in 2011, and the population is still on alert. PHOTO: OEM

ALLENDE, Coahuila - Only abandoned and destroyed farms and the self-imposed silence of the inhabitants of Allende remain after the massacre perpetrated in this city in northern Mexico over a decade ago by drug cartel Los Zetas, in revenge against a snitch.

In one raid, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized more than US$800,000 (S$1.1 million) in cash that was hidden in a tank of a vehicle driven by one of the cartel members, who identified his boss as Jose Vazquez Jr., alias El Diablo.

Vazquez Jr. was the largest cocaine distributor for Los Zetas in Texas, so US agents saw it as a great opportunity to get to the cartel leaders and capture them.

The DEA pressured El Diablo by threatening to put his wife and his mother in jail if he did not give them information about former drug lord Trevino Morales. He accepted and convinced Hector Moreno, another Los Zetas member, to give him the tracking numbers of his bosses' cellphones.

Moreno was in charge of buying new cellphones every 15 days for the Trevino Morales family to prevent their communications from being intercepted.

El Diablo gave the DEA the information from the cellphones and they shared the data with a unit of the Federal Police of Mexico to track and stop them.

However, Mexican agents informed the cartel of the information leak, sparking the leaders' anger. The cartel immediately assumed that Hector Moreno and another person, Jose Luis Garza, had been the "snitches".

Garza was from Allende and belonged to a wealthy family that was dedicated to ranching and coal mining.

The Trevino Morales brothers planned revenge against their informers.

Allende is located 383km from Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila, in northern Mexico. Getting there is not easy. The signage at the entrance to the municipality specifies that, according to the Census of the National Institute of Geography and Statistics, in 2020 there were 42,756 inhabitants.

The sign, which still has bullet holes from the clashes between criminal groups and authorities, is less than 20m from a military checkpoint and 100m from the Coahuila Civil Police base.

So it was that on March 18, 2011, dozens of criminals arrived at the town, located the Garza properties and kidnapped everyone who was inside.

The assassins made no distinction: men and women, the elderly and children, everyone with the surname Garza and who had a relationship with the family - they all disappeared. Even students, athletes, professionals and residents with nothing to do with the Garzas disappeared, their only mistake was having been out on the street that night.

On the morning of March 19, backhoes began to demolish the Garzas' properties: warehouses, houses, businesses, rest houses.

The criminals then incited the villagers to loot them. Entire families entered the farms for televisions, appliances, furniture and even the wiring. Nothing was left.

Criminals incited villagers to loot the properties. PHOTO: OEM

From March 18 to 22, in Allende and Piedras Negras, the 089 Emergency System received a total of 1,451 reports of help that no one responded to.

According to the National Human Rights Commission, the municipal police actively took part in the disappearance of people.

After the massacre, the entire town remained silent for years.

Although it was an open secret, nobody did anything. Neither the authorities nor security forces dared to confront what was then the most powerful and bloodthirsty cartel in the country.

In most of the cases of disappearance, the relatives did not report for fear of being tracked down and killed, and it was not until early 2014 that the massacre that occurred in Allende was made known in the media.

After more than 10 years, the population is still on alert. When they see a vehicle that does not carry licence plates from Coahuila or Texas their faces change, they move away, and visitors to the city are watched at all times by unknown men. It is still unknown how many people were victims of the massacre.

    After the massacre, the entire town remained silent for years. PHOTO: OEM

    After a decade, the farms still look destroyed, full of garbage.

    Upon seeing the reporters from El Sol de La Laguna arrive, the neighbours went indoors and closed their doors and windows. They don't know anything or they were "out of town" on those dates, is the response of those who spoke to the press.

    On Nogalar Street, where there was a "snitch" rest house, the dogs began to howl and the wind mobiles, commonly used as a charm to ward off bad vibes, began to sound. The fear of the inhabitants is justified. It is still a risk area.

    The families of the disappeared still hope to find out what happened to them, because they live with pain and have not been able to close the cycle. Still, they are afraid to speak. EL SOL DE LA LAGUNA, MEXICO

    • This is a translated version of the story published by El Sol de la Laguna in March 2021.

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