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The curtains are down at Salamanca's Tomasa Esteves market. The curtains are down at Salamanca's Tomasa Esteves market.

500 market vendors close in Salamanca, Guanajuato, over extortion fears

Vendors scared off by rumors that extortionists were planning an attack

Five hundred stall owners at a market in Salamanca, Guanajuato, have closed their businesses out of fear they could be targeted by violent extortionists.

Vendors at the Tomasa Esteves Market in downtown Salamanca shut up shop on Monday after rumors spread that an attack was imminent.

Two butchers were shot and killed last Thursday by a group of armed men who burst into the market.

“We’re very scared,” a shoe stall owner identified only as Margarita told the newspaper El Universal.

A grocery stall owner said that he and other vendors decided to close because they heard armed criminals were planning to show up at the market again and cause trouble for anyone who was still working.

They took the decision despite a strong presence of members of the National Guard and municipal police both inside and outside the facility.

“These people [the extortionists] are very dangerous, we don’t know when they might arrive,” said another market vendor identified only as Juana. She added that no date had been set for the market stalls to reopen.

“There’s a lot of fear,” said María, who sells birria, a goat stew.

“Threats have been directed at butchers … [extortionists] speak to them by phone to demand very large amounts ranging from 100,000 to 1 million pesos [US $4,700 to $47,000]. They can’t pay them. Who’s going to have those amounts [of money]?”

In addition to the attack last Thursday which also wounded a third butcher, a fruit vendor was murdered on Friday and two dead bodies were left outside the market on Saturday, María said. She added that another butcher was abducted a month ago and was only released after his family paid a ransom.

There was another armed attack near the market Wednesday afternoon that wounded two men who are believed to be market vendors, according to the newspaper El Sol de Salamanca.

It said that armed men in a vehicle shot at their victims while they were traveling in another vehicle. The wounded men were treated by Red Cross paramedics before being transferred to hospital.

Police attended the scene of the crime and began investigations but no arrests were reported.

Source: El Universal (sp), El Sol de Salamanca (sp) 

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