The mines claimed their first civilian casualty last week, when a farmer knocked one over into his pick-up truck; her son was injured in the explosion. This explosion was allegedly fueled by a device containing ammonium nitrate.
But the mines discovered so far have also included devices triggered by a radio or telephone signal, by pressure – like when someone steps on them – or even by vials that break and combine two chemicals.
A soldier on Friday demonstrated how he cautiously approaches suspicious spots of disturbed ground on a dirt road in the area, before receiving a signal and calling out another soldier in a bomb suit.
Mexican army troops arrived in Aguililla, a township long dominated by the Jalisco cartel, for the first time in months on February 8.
A few days earlier, an army vehicle had been disabled by an improvised explosive device, or IED, planted on a road, and 10 soldiers had been injured by the mine or other weapons. This was the first known successful use of IEDs against a military target in Mexico.
The Jalisco Cartel has been fighting the local Viagras gang, also known as the United Cartels, for control of the region for years.
Michoacan state is coveted by drug cartels for its seaport and smuggling routes, as well as the ability to extort money from the state’s avocado and lime growers.
Some say the fighting was so fierce around the difficult hamlet of Naranjo de Chila because it is the hometown of Jalisco cartel leader Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera.
The cartels have previously used trenches, pillboxes, homemade armored cars and modified drones to drop small bombs in their fight for control of Michoacan.
But primitive, buried explosives of the pipe bomb type can be the most indiscriminate weapons.
Cartel bomb-carrying drones have actually caused more terror in Michoacan than landmines. Although initially crude and dangerous to load and operate – and still indiscriminately – drone warfare has improved, and it’s not uncommon to see roofs of metal barns or sheds open like boxes canned due to the impact of drone explosions.