Business owners and fruit producers in Tamaulipas blame the withdrawal of the army last October for the upsurge of violent crime in rural areas of the state.
Many businesses in three affected municipalities closed shop for a third consecutive day yesterday in protest against the increased threat, despite an increased presence of federal police.
Schools in the community of El Barretal followed suit.
During the governorship of Egidio Torre Cantú, who was in power from 2011 to October 2016, the army set up roadblocks and patrolled rural areas of the state and achieved a semblance of order.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) governor signed annual agreements with the federal government to have 2,300 military personnel carry out security operations.
However, from the beginning of his successor’s term the army no longer had a permanent presence and in March, Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca announced that his government would not renew the agreement.
Organized crime groups took advantage of the reduced surveillance and returned to their practice of extorting money from businesses in the region.
“The army withdrew. Before we had permanent security and the military was calming things down but suddenly they withdrew,” one citrus producer lamented.
The governor explained that the state was working towards doing its own policing but some remain skeptical and claim that no progress has yet been made.
Last month it was reported that the state had a shortfall of some 7,000 police, leading authorities to launch a national recruitment drive to bolster the ranks.
Such is the desperation of citrus producers that they even put in an offer to pay for the army’s gasoline if they would carry out a patrol of the area. They didn’t receive a response.
One person affected by the crime wave said the situation is so bad that farm owners have abandoned their crops and are too afraid to return because of the armed gangs who have taken control of the area.
“In the past eight years [the situation] has not been as critical as it is now.”
Source: Reforma (sp)