26 Slain in Deadliest Mexican Drug Attack in a Decade


The killing of 26 people in an unregistered drug rehabilitation center in central Mexico is the deadliest such attack in a decade and has led to calls for change in a state that has become a cartel battleground.

Ricardo Ortiz, mayor of the city of Irapuato in Guanajuato state, raised the death toll from 24 on Thursday after two of the seven people injured in the attack died. Ortiz said the other five are out of danger.

Ortiz said there were six or seven attackers who pulled up in two vehicles at the two-story house on the outskirts of Irapuato.

Apparently the attackers shot every male at the rehab center, letting only the females go. Ortiz said some residents may have escaped when the shooting began.

Rosa Alba Santoyo, three of whose sons were killed in the attack, said a female addict at the center said the gunmen told the women to get out, before gunning down the men.

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Santoyo said two of her sons, construction workers aged 29 and 39, were at the center because they had problems with drugs.

Her youngest son, 27, had been at the center previously and recovered, and had only returned Wednesday to bring his brothers soft drinks when the gunmen killed all three of them.

Santoyo, who works at a factory that make cleaning products, said that up until a month or two ago, there had been a military post across the street from the center, but that for some reason it had been withdrawn.

A woman who lives near the center, Mary Moreno, said the gunmen simply burst into the rehab and started shooting.

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Guanajuato, a prosperous industrial hub with foreign auto plants, has become Mexico’s most violent state.

“The government doesn’t do anything anymore,” Moreno said.

Ortiz, the mayor, said that while there are still army and national guard posted in the city, “just their presence is not enough, as long as there is no real strategy to combat organized crime in a more effective way.”

The state is the scene of a bloody turf battle between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and a local gang, the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel.

No motive was given in the rehab center attack, but Gov. Diego Sinhue Rodríguez Vallejo said drug gangs appeared to have been involved.

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“The violence generated by organized crime not only takes the lives of the young, but it takes the peace from families in Guanajuato,” the governor wrote. Vallejo belongs to the conservative opposition party National Action.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Thursday that “changes must be made to solve Guanajuato’s problem, because the circumstances demand it.”

“The problem was allowed to grow, it grew a lot and we have to see if there was some sort of cooperation, criminal conspiracy between the criminals and officials,” López Obrador said.

Mexican drug gangs have killed suspected street-level dealers from rival gangs sheltering at such facilities in the past.

It was one of the deadliest attacks on a rehab center since 19 people were killed in 2010 in a Chihuahua city in northern Mexico. More than a dozen attacks on such facilities have occurred since then.

Ortiz said there are almost 30 unregistered rehab centers in Irapuato. He said some function “as fronts for the cartels.”

Cartels sometimes use the centers to hide addicts and dealers who face attacks from rivals on the streets. Gangs also sometimes use the centers to recruit addicts as dealers.

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