The murder rate in Baja California Sur in the first three months of the year shot up by an alarming 433% over the same period last year as rival crime gangs settled scores and fought over territory.
There were 27 intentional homicides during the first quarter of 2016 and 144 this year.
Statistics from the National Public Security System show that extortion and kidnapping also increased.
On June 7 state authorities found 18 bodies — 13 men and five women — in a clandestine grave on a private property near Los Cabos. It was the first time that such a discovery had been made in the tourism-oriented region.
“For us this is totally unusual,” said state Interior Secretary Álvaro de la Peña Angulo. “It’s something unprecedented in the history of Baja California Sur.
“The whole country has a very acute problem and without any doubt the Baja California peninsula from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas has been throughout history a springboard to [transport] drugs from south to north. That’s very attractive for criminals.”
The official says criminal groups from other states are to blame for the recent upswing in deadly violence.
“They are not groups that are established in the state. They have arrived from other states like Sinaloa and Jalisco and from the north of the peninsula.”
He also conceded that without a coordinated effort from federal forces, the escalating violence was difficult to contain.
So far, visitor numbers have not been adversely affected in a region where tourism is vital to the local economy and domestic and international tourists spend approximately 12 billion pesos annually.
A relieved state Tourism Secretary indicated that it was business as usual despite the wave of violence.
“They are confrontations that have occurred between criminal groups; it hasn’t affected the tourist zone or any visitors,” said Luis Genaro Ruíz.
However, some residents face a different reality.
One example is the case of Petra Muñoz Pulido, a journalist with 40 years’ experience.
Since 2014 she has participated in a federal government protection scheme for journalists after receiving a death threat via a banner hung from her home in La Paz, which she has been forced to convert into a virtual fortress.
“Before the most momentous thing that could happen was robbery, assault, a crash, a fire; that was what tormented us, but since a few years ago it turned into a fearful situation for all of us.” She now lives with security measures that one would never have thought possible.
Muñoz’ situation became even more complicated when her 31-year-old son, who worked with her on her political magazine Expreso, was abducted last December.
She believes police investigators carried out the kidnapping and observes that the state Attorney General’s office has made no progress in its investigation.
She even fears that information that she provided to authorities may be counterproductive.
“The authorities don’t want to talk about clandestine graves but there they are. I fear the information that I gave the Attorney General’s office to look for my son, [may] sink him further. I don’t want to think the worst but who are those people in the graves? The disappeared. There are lost of people missing and their families are afraid to report it.”
De la Peña Ángulo seems to confirm her conclusion.
“It’s absolutely clear to us that all those people [in the graves] disappeared . . . people who sadly somehow disappeared from somewhere.”
The state was ranked as the fourth least peaceful in the country in 2016 with the rates of a range of other crimes also on the rise.
Source: Milenio (sp)