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Mexico: Residents Flee Violence, Fear Turns Tila Into Ghost Town

The town of Tila in southern Mexico now resembles a ghost town after thousands fled in fear of their lives. Tila is about 230 km from the Chiapas state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez. This town was literally held in siege for three days after heavily armed men arrived in Tila in trucks and military gear. Many of those who fled are residents who told Reuters that the armed men had covered their faces. Some of them appeared to be underage and they fired on homes, set vehicles on fire, looted stores and tried to break into homes. They unleashed a scale of violence that has frightened residents, many of whom are too scared to return to their homes. The violence that started on June 4 only ended three days later when the army arrived on June 7.

State authorities have said 5000 troops have been deployed and six suspects are in custody. The government says the violence in Tila was the result of a local rivalry but residents disagree.

They say organized gangs have been extorting residents for a long time and have even punished those who refuse to pay up.

A victim, who fled his home and didn’t want to be named, told Reuters, “The day after on the same day, at night, they (criminals) started to shoot around 8 pm. At midnight, they started to burn houses. We took shelter and hid from them. The day after, they burnt whatever houses were left, they came back in full daylight, dressed up with military outfits and the chief with high-calibre weapons.

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Many of those who fled their homes are now staying at a shelter. They do not want to return even though the army is now patrolling the city. Erika Utrilla, President of the Yajalon Integral Development National System said, “We have around 4,000 (displaced people) but some come at different times so sometimes around 350 sleep here. The shelter distributes food to around 2,000 people and we have other places where people go for food.”

Residents also claim that there is a rise in extortion and drug trafficking.

Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico’s President-elect, who will take charge in October, has vowed to fight extortion