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The vehicle in which the two suspects were traveling The vehicle in which the two suspects were traveling when they were arrested.

2 arrests made in Guaymas, Sonora, following outbreak of violence

The two have been linked to three murders and two arson attacks

Two people have been arrested in connection with three murders and two arson attacks in San Carlos, a town in the municipality of Guaymas, Sonora.

Irma Janeth Castro, owner of the restaurant/bar La Catrina, was shot dead in her car Tuesday, while César Octavio Enríquez Cota, a 31-year-old recently-married man with a doctorate, was murdered in his car in the car park of Hammerhead’s restaurant last Friday. Those homicides came after a security guard at the La Bartina bar was murdered on June 19 in an armed attack that wounded one other person. The 17-year-old son of Castro, 45, was wounded in Tuesday’s attack and taken to hospital for treatment.

The same two people accused of the murders are also allegedly responsible for setting fire to La Bartina and a restaurant and beach club called Maukaa, according to the Sonora Attorney General’s Office (FGJE).

The FGJE said in a statement Wednesday that it deployed a special team of investigators to respond to the events, detaining two people in possession of firearms and drugs. The FGJE said the unnamed people possibly participated in the criminal acts.

According to the Tribuna newspaper, San Carlos – a beach town 20 kilometers northwest of the city of Guaymas – is currently amidst a crisis of insecurity. It said that rival criminal groups are fighting for control of the town and that – despite the recent arrests – authorities haven’t acted to solve the crisis.

The recent wave of violence appears related to extortion demands made by criminals in San Carlos. A local businessman told Tribuna that criminal groups are asking many businesses to make regular payments. Other business owners have taken to social media to denounce the crime and highlight authorities’ failure to combat it. One business owner pleaded for people to “pray for San Carlos,” Tribuna said.

Andrés Sumano, an academic who researches violence, said that extortion usually occurs because organized “crime acts as a franchise business.”

“So local groups tend to look for sources of financing by resorting to these actions,” he said.

“The … victims selected by these criminals are usually Mexican business people,” said Rafael López, a risk consultant with the company Kroll.

Criminals target them because “it’s known their families are here” and they have “vulnerable points,” he said. Foreign-owned businesses – of which there are some in San Carlos – are “the least affected by this kind of crime because they don’t have these vulnerable points,” López said.

Following the murder of Enríquez, local businessman Luis Zaragoza questioned the inaction of authorities.

“There was an attack that resulted in the death of a person, … it’s a very serious situation because families with children and tourists were walking around,” he said in a radio interview. “[It happened] at a relatively early hour; it’s an increasingly delicate situation … [but] there’s no reaction [from authorities], there’s no solution. I don’t understand what authorities are thinking and what they’re waiting for to act.”

Tribuna reported that Guaymas Mayor Karla Córdova hasn’t made a public appearance since the latest outbreak of violence began, but noted that isn’t surprising because she has kept a low profile since witnessing an armed attack on the municipal police chief, which claimed the lives of three other people last November.

However, Sonora Security Minister María Dolores del Río has asserted that authorities are concerned about what’s happening in San Carlos and working to combat crime in the town. The recent arrests lend some credence to those words.

Sumano, the academic, said the absence of the mayor creates the impression that the problems in San Carlos are not being addressed by local authorities.

“Mayors are the visible faces of municipal governments, they’re the first responders [to local problems] and if that face isn’t there, if citizens don’t see an interest in resolving problems, … [they believe] they’ve been abandoned by an indolent authority,” he said.

With reports from El Imparcial, Tribuna, Opinión Sonora, El Universal and Radar Sonora 

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