MEXICO CITY – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Wednesday that the shootout that left a soldier and 14 armed civilians dead in the southern state of Guerrero was not retaliation for the killing of 14 state police officers earlier this week in the western state of Michoacan.
“No, I rule that out completely,” Lopez Obrador, the founder and leader of the leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena), said in response to a question about whether the killings were an act of revenge.
The president was referring to the massacre that occurred on Tuesday in Tepochica, a city in Guerrero.
During his daily press conference at the National Palace, Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, said that the two incidents “are different things” and his administration will not allow anyone to exact “an eye for an eye” in fighting crime.
“I have said it on other occasions ... you can’t fight violence with violence,” AMLO said.
On Monday, gunmen on the payroll of the Jalisco Nueva Generacion drug cartel killed 13 state police officers during an attack in Aguililla, a city in Michoacan.
AMLO said the massacre in Guerrero was “very regrettable,” adding that his administration did not want “more clashes” or “more violence.”
The Mexican leader said his strategy for pacifying the country was markedly different from the approach taken by previous administrations, such as that of conservative President Felipe Calderon, who was in office from 2006 to 2012 and declared an all-out war on drug cartels.
Lopez Obrador said his administration was seeking “a new paradigm” in which the use of force and lethal tactics was not the main focus.
“What is lethal? When there are more dead than wounded or arrested, it’s when there is an emphasis on extermination in which the wounded are finished off. It hurts to say that, but it was done in Mexico,” the president said.
Lopez Obrador said his strategy was to address the factors that lead people to turn to crime.
AMLO criticized previous administrations, saying that they allowed rampant corruption for 36 years and “the government ignored the people,” forcing citizens to turn to crime to survive.
Guerrero is one of the states most affected by the drug-related violence in Mexico.
Thousands of people have been killed in Guerrero since September 2014, when 43 Ayotzinapa teachers college students disappeared in the city of Iguala.
The students’ disappearance was blamed on corrupt police officers and the Guerreros Unidos criminal organization.
Mexico has been plagued by drug-related violence and crime, both minor and serious offenses, for years.
In the first eight months of this year, according to the most recent Executive Public Safety Secretariat figures available, 23,063 people were murdered in Mexico.
Michoacan accounted for nearly 1,200 of the killings in Mexico. The number of murders in Michoacan in August alone was 202, up 46.4 percent from the same month in 2018.