Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Extortion creates tortilla shortage in Celaya; owners close doors in protest

Organized crime has left several neighborhoods in Celaya, Guanajuato, without tortillas for the last four days.

Dozens of tortilla makers in the southwest of the city shut down their businesses on Saturday and have remained closed to protest against the presence of violent criminal gangs that charge extortion payments known as cobro de piso, and to demand government action.

“Due to intimidation and the possibility of retaliation, those affected haven’t in all cases reported the extortioners but [instead] chose to close because their incomes are not sufficient to cover the fees that criminals demand from them,” a local tortilla makers’ association said in a statement.

Among the neighborhoods where tortillerías were closed yesterday were Lagos, Las Flores, Santa Isabel, Jacarandas, El Ejidal and Monte Blanco, the newspaper El Universal reported.

“People have been walking around looking for a place to buy [tortillas]. A lot of businesses are closed. It’s very unfortunate, very sad, never before have we reached such extremes,” said Fernando Arellano, a priest at a church in Las Flores.

“All the tortillerías are closed,” said 65-year-old Mariana, who walked seven blocks searching for tortillas. “What are we going to do now? Well, go to [the supermarket] Mega, surely there are tortillas there.”

One store that was closed yesterday was tortillería La Indita, a 57-year-old family business in the neighborhood of Lagos.

However, the shop’s owner didn’t close as part of the protest against violence and extortion.

Virginia “N” and two female employees were shot dead by a suspected extortion gang on Monday as they worked, an attack that has left other tortilla shop workers fearful for their own lives.

“Of course, we’re afraid,” said a young woman working yesterday at one of only two tortilla shops that were open in Celaya’s southwest.

“What can you do? We have to work, right?”

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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