New barracks under construction in Los Cabos with private-sector support. New barracks under construction in Los Cabos with private-sector support.

Businesses help build Baja military barracks

'Insecurity has to be solved and we're going to solve it:' business leader

The business community in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, is betting big that building new military barracks in the popular tourism destination will help combat rising levels of violent crime.

The local branch of the Business Coordinating Council (CCE) has pledged 140 million pesos (almost US $7.5 million) towards the project, which is currently nearing the end of the first stage of construction.

When completed, the new facilities will be handed over to the Secretariat of the Navy and 250 military personnel will be permanently stationed there.

In an interview with the newspaper El Universal, the president of the CCE in Los Cabos said that its decision to invest in the new barracks was the result of the “determined participation of civil society.”

“They’re actions that stem from the relationship between authorities and society. Things aren’t going to improve otherwise. There’s no other way. We’re very clear about that,” Julio Castillo Gómez remarked.

He anticipated that the first stage of construction would be completed by April and sometime thereafter the new sleeping quarters would provide better accommodation for marines who are charged with supporting public security operations in the area.

Those currently deployed in the municipality are housed in less than optimal conditions, he said.

“They’re sleeping on camp beds . . . in conditions we wish they weren’t in,” Castillo explained.

“We’ve committed ourselves to equip them with a building and for the Secretariat of the Navy to have a detachment with all their operational costs [paid for],” he said.

In addition, the business leader said the private sector in Los Cabos aims to play a part in converting the municipality’s police into the best force in the country.

For at least 18 years, Castillo said, successive governments have failed to adequately invest in local security forces, and to a considerable extent that is what has “caused the current [deterioration of security] conditions in the destination.”

Violent crime surged in the tourism-oriented state in 2017, and Baja California Sur recorded the second highest per-capita homicide rate in the country last year, behind only Colima.

In December, the bodies of six men were found hanging from bridges in Los Cabos and La Paz. It was the first time in the state’s history that bodies had been hung from bridges by criminal gangs.

Los Cabos authorities said the number of municipal police officers had dropped by 200 over the past two years and they have been unable to recruit enough new officers locally to replace them.

Consequently, the private sector, in collaboration with the Navy, is currently looking for new cadets in Mexico City with the intention of transferring them to Los Cabos over the coming weeks.

To compensate for the shortfall, Castillo told El Universal, local business people have paid 2.3 million pesos (US $123,000) monthly for the past year for the accommodation and food expenses of 190 officers with the National Gendarmerie, a division of the Federal Police.

“The way that we are going to achieve progress in Los Cabos is to get all of us involved and we’re doing it,” he said.

“. . . we’re not going to stop. This [insecurity] has to be solved and we’re going to solve it . . .” he declared.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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