Building supplies outlets in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, have been forced to close after becoming the latest victims of extortion and threats from criminal groups, which have also affected tortillerías and public transport.
A hotel owner from the Guerrero city, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, said that at least five building supplies outlets closed last week after criminal groups demanded extortion money.
“What we know is that they are being charged [extortion] and that payments are being demanded of them. That’s why they closed,” the hotel owner said in interview with the newspaper El Universal. He added that criminal groups demanded extortion payments from hotel owners a few months ago, but hadn’t attempted to do so again more recently.
One building supplies store, Materiales Ixtapa (Ixtapa Materials), wrote on social media to announce its closure. “Dear customers, we thank you for your preference, our installations will remain closed temporarily due to security issues. We apologize for the inconvenience,” it said in a post.
Extortion has become commonplace in Zihuatanejo: more than 50 tortillerías closed temporarily in May due to threats and public transport was also temporarily suspended.
Criminal groups demanded a payment for the right to make tortillas, which tortilla makers rejected, instead closing as a means of security and protest. Around the same time, half the city’s transport services were suspended in protest after three transport vehicles were set alight by armed men.
“If you don’t want them to do anything to you, you pay every day,” a transport provider said at the time.
Transport workers face dangerous conditions to move people from A to B in the state: 24 public transit drivers and two transport association leaders have been murdered in Guerrero during the past four months, according to a count by the Milenio newspaper.
Governor Evelyn Salgado denied rumors that transport workers agreed to a deal with criminals for transport services to resume.
A Zihuatanejo resident previously told El Universal that business owners were left with few options. “Here, that’s how simple it is. If you don’t pay quickly, they’ll want to burn your business down,” the resident said, adding that criminals were attempting to control sales of beer, soft drinks and meat and that almost all service providers were being extorted, including taxi drivers, boat operators, construction workers and hotel owners.
Extortion is a pressing national issue: while the government has claimed some small victories in terms of violent crimes such as homicide, extortion has remained stubbornly high.
With reports from El Universal