By “El Huaso” for Borderland Beat
Four were killed and two were injured after gunmen opened fire at a drug rehabilitation center in Celaya, Guanajuato on Saturday night. In Mexico, drug rehab centers, called “anexos” are often attacked by organized crime groups for fears they are recruiting grounds for rival criminal groups.
On Saturday night, a group of armed gunmen arrived by car at and opened fire at the “Ilusión de Vivir” rehab center located on Calle Plan de La Noria in the La Ciudadela neighborhood of Celaya. They left shortly after firing off shots, before the police, National Guard, and Army arrived. No suspects have been arrested.
While local news initially reported the victims were patients, later reporting clarified they were visiting family members and administrators of the rehab center, two of whom died at the scene, with the other two dying at the hospital.
In Mexico, especially Guanajuato state, drug rehab centers are often targeted for brutal attacks by criminal groups. A 2021 report by SinEmbargo found that they are sometimes deeply entangled with criminality, as armed groups have used them to hire desperate hitmen, hide kidnapping victims, and stash bodies. Another report by Animal Politico concluded the same, and counted 11 attacks over two years.
In June 2023, the Mexican government raided one such drug rehab center in Cueramaro, Guanajuato after receiving tips it was being used to hold kidnapping victims. They freed 36 victims who were being held by nine members of an organized crime group.
In addition to being the epicenter for homicides in Mexico, Guanajuato also leads the nation in drug dealing, with 25% of all Mexico’s drug dealing cases in 2022, partly explaining the prominence of drug rehab center attacks in the state.
Although there is a lack of official data on the type of drugs used, experts argue that methamphetamine is the most popular, and is rapidly gaining users. In 2020, Nicolás Pérez Ponce, President of the United Rehab Centers of the Bajio announced that in 2020 6 out of 10 addicts sought help for a meth problem, but in 2021, that number had increased to 8 out of 10. Two criminal groups, the Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL), and the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) are behind most drug dealing in the state, according to the Small Wars Journal.
Further concerning is the impact on youth. In 2022, 20% of drug dealers arrested were adolescents. Further, drug rehab professionals in the state have raised the alarm about starting to see children as young as 8 and 10 being addicted to drugs.
Sources: Zona Franca 9/2/23 Agora Guanajuato 9/5/23, Canal 6 TV 9/4/23, Circulo Noticias 9/4/23, Sin Embargo 10/8/21, Opinión Bajío 6/8/23, Animal Politico, Milenio 12/21/23, Noticias Radio Irapuato 11/19/21, PubliMetro 6/25/23, PubliMetro 6/25/23, Small Wars Journal 1/19/23