Mexico City – Residents in Mexico’s Golden Triangle, the area where authorities believe Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán is hiding, say that during the hunt for the drug lord innocent people have come under fire from federal forces.
The residents are growing exasperated with the Mexican Marines, who believe they have the head of the Sinaloa Cartel cornered and are doing whatever it takes to make sure they capture him after his dramatic escape from a Mexican prison in July.
Ever since the Marines parachuted into the municipality of Tamazula, Durango, on Oct. 6, residents – some 600 or so have been displaced so far, fleeing to Cosalá in Sinaloa state and other towns on the periphery of the operation – began accusing soldiers of firing on civilians or their property and violating their rights.
“The helicopter arrived and started shooting at all the cars within sight in the small ranch of Los Medios. It hit a red truck and a house," a witness told the local press. "And in a house in Acachoame, a child was riding on a [motorbike] and he got shot and is now in the hospital."
A reporter for the English-language Mexico News Daily, accompanied one displaced person back to her home in El Verano, Durango, and found 33 bullet holes in the roof and walls of her home.
The ministry that oversees the Marines has denied all such allegations in a statement, saying that its soldiers are able to tell the difference between “self-defense” and “abuse of power” and that none of the complainants have filed formal allegations of human-rights violations.
The Golden Triangle, a region in which poppy fields and meth labs proliferate at the border between the states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango intersect, is well known to Guzmán.
A Mexican official told CNN that the Marines nearly caught the 57-year-old kingpin at a ranch near Cosalá, but he jumped off a small cliff, breaking his leg and injuring his face.
Guzmán's mother is from the portion of Durango where the Marines are searching for him, as is his current wife, children and many people whom he supports or employs.
The cartel leader grew up in the nearby municipality of Badiraguato, where, after his most recent escape from a maximum-security prison on July 11, women filled the streets carrying signs that read, “Have a baby with me.”
Tamazula’s mayor, Ricardo Ochoa Beltrán, is married to a sister of Emma Coronel, Guzmán's beauty queen wife, while Cosalá representative in the Sinaloa legislature is Lucero Sánchez López, who is widely believed to be Chapo’s lover and the actual mother of his youngest son. She has been a prominent spokesperson on television reports calling out the Marines for attacks on civilians.
Political analyst Salvador García Soto, sees reports of such attacks as “complaints and denunciations by groups influenced by the drug cartels” in an attempt to discredit the Marines, one of the few institutions that’s maintained any credibility.
Jorge Chabat, a security analyst for the Mexico City-based Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE), told Fox News Latino that the protection stems from “the mixture of the money used to corrupt authorities, and the economic support given to communities who are grateful to him and do not see him as a threat.”
Gardenia Mendoza is a freelance reporter in Mexico City.