A video filmed in the state of Michoacán in western Mexico shows a masked man shaving a women's head as "punishment" for "disrespecting" the man and other members of a cartel. The video has been shared online since December 31, 2021, showing an incident that is not uncommon in this part of Mexico, according to a local resident.
First shared online on December 31, 2021, by the Twitter account "Unidad De Inteligencia Ciudadana" ("Citizen Intelligence Unit"), the video has garnered more than 27,000 views. It shows a masked man shaving a woman's head, while a young girl appears to be holding her. A female voice in the background pleads, "Please, no, no, mom, enough, mom!"
The victim shouts, "He's hurting me!" and the masked man gives the girl a clump of hair. Another woman is visible, her back turned.
According to the caption with the video, the events took place in Los Reyes, a city in the Mexican state of Michoacán, and members of "Cárteles Unidos" ("United Cartels") shaved the woman's hair.
The cartel is a conglomeration of several criminal organisations operating in Michoacán. Some of them began as "self-defence groups" before evolving into groups whose main activity is drug trafficking. Their main enemy: the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
'The cartel people likely "punished" her for "disrespecting the boss"'
The FRANCE 24 Observers team contacted the Twitter account that published this video:
People contact us when they want to report things that they may have witnessed, but are unable to go to the authorities, in case they have links with criminal groups.
Concerning this video, it was the daughter of the woman whose head was shaved who sent it to us. She told us that they were in their car when they saw men blocking access to a parking lot with their vehicles. Her mother honked the horn and got out of her car to talk to one of the drivers. It was the security detail of Luis Enrique Barragán Chávez, also known as "Guicho de los Reyes" or "El R-5", the leader of "Cárteles Unidos" in the area. He was also in the vehicle. The cartel people then "punished" her, shaving her in this humilitating way for "disrespecting the boss". They told her not to cause any more problems, because they wouldn't be so nice to her next time.
The family has since left Michoacán, and the girl did not want their name published with the video. [Editor's note: According to the governor of Michoacán, no complaint has been filed regarding this incident, but he said an investigation would nevertheless be opened].
"Guicho de los Reyes" is in charge of the entire region. His stronghold is Los Reyes, where he has more than 1,000 men working for him, with armoured vehicles and weapons, and where he locks up the people he kidnaps or punishes in drug rehabilitation centres. They also have men in Periban [a town near Los Reyes]. In the area, if people oppose them, they have to pay the price.
'This kind of "punishment" happens regularly: They might hit people on the backside with boards'
The FRANCE 24 Observers team was able to contact a resident of Los Reyes, who spoke to us under condition of anonymity for security concerns. He said it was not uncommon for local armed groups to inflict punishment on residents.
This kind of "punishment" happens regularly, but usually it's men who are punished. They might hit people on the backside, with boards or pipes. In the most serious cases, people could be locked up for days or months in private drug detoxification centres, which the cartel uses as prisons.
People are "punished" if they "misbehave": for example, if they disturb the public order, if they disrespect others, if they steal, if they drive too fast or drunk, if they cause problems in the street...
Personally, I've never seen this type of punishment happen, but I know some people it's happened to: They were taken to a detox centre. One of them owed money to a local drug dealer. Another had abused his wife and children. Another one had apparently been selling drugs in Los Reyes which had come from somewhere else.
'The residents of Los Reyes are used to this'
Regarding the woman whose head was shaved, I also heard she was "punished" because she was the attendant in charge of payments for the parking lot where the events took place. Apparently she was accused of abusing her position on several occasions.
That said, some armed groups are even worse. The residents of Los Reyes are used to this. Very often, the locals even go to the cartel rather than the police when they have a problem, so that they can act as intermediaries or find a solution...
The conflict between Cárteles Unidos and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel for control of the territory has already caused many problems in the area, such as shootings, blocked roads, power cuts, etc. According to El País, the conflict is currently affecting more and more towns in Michoacán.