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Vehicles and businesses destroyed after drug cartel "bosses" arrested in western Mexico

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Drug cartel gunmen burned over two dozen stores and blocked streets with blazing vehicles in western Mexico in a response to a series of arrests of drug cartel figures, authorities said Wednesday.

Images circulated on social media showed men commandeering cars and buses and setting them on fire late Tuesday in the middle of roadways. Others showed burned out convenience stores.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday that soldiers had confronted criminals, including "bosses," at a "meeting of two gangs" Tuesday in Jalisco state.

Members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) burn vehicles in Zapopan
Police officers walk past a vehicle set alight by members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) following the detention of one of its leaders by Mexican federal forces, in Zapopan, in Jalisco state, Mexico August 9, 2022. FERNANDO CARRANZA / REUTERS

The president said there was a shootout, arrests and "this provoked protests of burned vehicles, not only in Jalisco, but also in Guanajuato."

The U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco state, issued an advisory instructing employees "to follow the advice of local authorities and to shelter in place until further notice."

"Local authorities and media are reporting multiple road blockades, burning vehicles, and shootouts between Mexican security forces and unspecified criminal elements in various parts of the Guadalajara metropolitan area," according to consulate.

Oxxo, a national chain of convenience stores owned by Femsa, the country's largest bottling company, said in a statement that 25 of its stores in Guanajuato - which borders Jalisco, home to the cartel of the same name - were either totally or partially burned.

Members of the State Prosecutor's Office and Municipal Police guard the area where gang members set a bus on fire blocking a highway to prevent authorities from chasing them in Zapopan, Jalisco State, Mexico, on August 9, 2022. ULISES RUIZ/AFP via Getty Images

"Fortunately, all of our employees and customers are all right," the company said.

Videos showed armed men, some shouting slogans in support of the Jalisco cartel, bursting into convenience stores before setting fires, as occupants of the stores fled.

Videos also showed men commandeering cars and buses and setting them on fire in the middle of roadways.

Guanajuato-based security analyst David Saucedo said the Oxxo stores were apparently chosen because of their ubiquity and light security, rather than because of any dispute with the company.

"They are small stores, there are many throughout the state, they don't have security like a Walmart or Liverpool (department store) have," Saucedo said, adding "they are open at night, and everyone recognizes them."

Cartels often create such chaos in an effort to keep authorities from transporting captured cartel bosses or to protest arrests.

López Obrador said authorities were still deployed Wednesday in the area of Jalisco where the initial arrests were made.

Jalisco Gov. Enrique Alfaro said via Twitter that no one was injured in the destruction that followed the arrests and "the situation is under control."

He said five people had been detained in the raids and one suspect was killed, but did not identify them.

The region is dominated by the Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG), which the Department of Justice considers to be "one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations in the world."

The cartel's leader, Nemesio Oseguera, "El Mencho," is among the most sought by Mexican and U.S. authorities. There was no indication Oseguera was present during the clash.

Guanajuato is the scene of a bloody proxy war between Jalisco and the Sinaloa cartel, which operates through local gangs.

In May, Mexican authorities announced they captured a suspected leader of the CJNG. Francisco Javier Rodriguez Hernandez, known as "El Señorón" or "XL" or "Frank," was apprehended in the tourist city of Mazatlan, in the northwest state of Sinaloa, in an operation carried out by navy agents.

Mexico has been trapped in a spiral of cartel-related violence that has left more than 340,000 dead since 2006, when the government launched a controversial anti-drug operation with federal troops.

In April, López Obrador confirmed that Mexico had dissolved a special unit trained by U.S. authorities to fight drug cartels because it was infiltrated by criminals. 

A month prior, López Obrador accused popular television shows of glamorizing the violent drug trade. He criticized TV series on platforms such as Netflix, saying they presented a rose-colored version of the lifestyles of drug traffickers.   

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