Business owners in the Guerrero municipality of Zihuatanejo say six months of increased violence are hurting its most profitable industry, tourism.
So far this year some 30 businesses have closed, including a hotel, due to a wave of crime in which 69 people have been assassinated this year in the coastal municipality. Three of those killed were municipal police.
Police presence has been reduced since a clean-up of the force earlier this year left 20 in jail and others disarmed, resulting in fewer patrols.
As a result, the streets in the cities of Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa are all but empty after nightfall. Stores, restaurants and shopping centers close at 9:00pm and few people venture outdoors after 10, reported the newspaper Reforma yesterday.
The owner of a local bed and breakfast said local criminal groups are using a “silver or lead” strategy.
“‘If you don’t pay extortion, we open fire on your business.’ It’s that simple, is what the criminals say.”
Earlier this week, Governor Héctor Astudillo Flores and his Tourism Secretary reported that hotel occupancy during the first summer vacation weekend had been over 80%. A local business leader disagreed.
Ricardo Sotelo Luna, president of the Business Council of Zihuatanejo, reported that occupancy rates are barely reaching 70%, and there are doubts about the prospects for the summer season.
Even high occupancy rates don’t mean that much because tourists arrive at their hotels in Ixtapa and never leave because “they know that coming down to [the city of] Zihuatanejo is dangerous,” said Sotelo.
Cleaning up the local police force occurred after gunmen attacked a police station in April, triggering action by state and federal police against what was identified as a group of fake police officers that had infiltrated the municipal force.
Some 60 police were arrested, 20 of whom are in jail awaiting trial.
Reforma reported today that at least three criminal groups are fighting over the plaza: Guerrero Guard, believed affiliated with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, New Blood Guerrero, an extension of Los Viagras, and the Tequileros.
The National Public Security System says there were 55 homicides reported in the municipality in the first six months of the year, up by 13 over the same period last year.
Source: Reforma (sp)