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Vendors at the artisans' market are among those forced to pay extortion. Vendors at the artisans' market are among those forced to pay extortion.

Crime up in San Miguel as fuel thieves diversify, businesses say

The Santa Rosa cartel has diversified and focused on the colonial city in Guanajuato

The crackdown on fuel theft has had an unwanted effect in San Miguel de Allende — an increase in crime, according to businesspeople.

There have been around 65 homicides in the municipality so far this year — there were three during the same period last year — and extortion cases are also on the rise.

Local business owners told the newspaper El Universal that crime spiked in the municipality after the federal government’s crackdown on fuel theft.

Members of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel began to diversify their criminal activities and found a fertile hunting ground in the colonial city.

The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which is engaged in a bitter turf war with the Santa Rosa gang, also operates in San Miguel.

The charging of extortion fees known as derecho de piso has become widespread, the business owners said, explaining that everyone is forced to pay.

That includes stallholders in the artisans’ market and proprietors of the city’s most popular nightclubs, they said.

One business owner identified only as Alice said she had heard that artisans are charged monthly extortion fees of between 5,000 and 10,000 pesos (US $260 to $520), which she described as “unacceptable.”

She said both violence and extortion were affecting businesses “in a brutal way,” adding “we don’t want to even imagine what will happen the day that something happens to a visitor.”

Another business owner, who asked to be identified only as Oropeza, said he never imagined that he’d see people gunned down in commercial areas of San Miguel as occurred earlier this month on Conspiración boulevard near the La Placita Market.

Three people were killed in the attack including a 14-year-old girl, after which municipal councilor Humberto Campos asked residents not to share news stories about violence in San Miguel in order to promote a “good image” for the municipality.

Oropeza, whose son was murdered in February, said both municipal and state governments are deliberately trying to keep news about violence quiet because “they know we live from tourism.”

The federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) has identified suspected CJNG member Ramiro “N” as the principal instigator of violence in San Miguel.

An FGR report says that the alleged criminal also known as “El Perro” (The Dog) was arrested in November on drug trafficking and organized crime charges but was released in February.

The CJNG operative allegedly recruits young people in San Miguel de Allende to sell drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.

Although the story today in El Universal reported that San Miguel was the third most violent municipality in the state, homicide figures show otherwise. Mexico News Daily records indicate there have been 65 homicides this year, well behind other violent municipalities such as Salvatierra, Salamanca and Abasolo.

However, homicide statistics from December through May put San Miguel in 39th place on a list of Mexico’s most violent municipalities, with a murder rate of 51.9 per 100,000 people.

Guanajuato has recorded more homicides than any other state since the new federal government took office in December.

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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