Saturday, December 2, 2023

Following extortion wave, 19 restaurants close in Celaya, Guanajuato

The violent culture of extortion in Guanajuato continues to wreak havoc on local businesses, particularly in Celaya’s restaurant and food services sector.

According to the national restaurant association Canirac, a total of 19 restaurants have closed down since the beginning of 2019. The city saw 15 businesses close last year and four have already shuttered this year.

Canirac director Helen Anaya Sanromán said that the problem is most serious in Celaya, but it is also a concern in other cities, such as Irapuato and Salamanca.

She said that the organization had over 100 affiliated businesses in Celaya, but that number has recently dropped to around 85.

“We have to motivate them and help them in order to reactivate the sector,” she said.

She lamented the closure of so many businesses, many of which had well-established reputations in the city.

“Yes, it’s sad,” she said, adding that some businesses closed simply out of the fear of violence and extortion generated by alarmist chain messages shared on social media.

“With much sadness we announce that we are joining the businesses that have closed due to the insecurity that exists in the state and in the city,” posted the bar and restaurant La Chopería, which closed its doors on February 3.

The situation in Celaya caused dozens of tortilla makers to close in August of last year to protest the culture of extortion and demand government action. Other businesses such as hardware stores, grocery stores and auto repair shops soon followed suit.

Extortion was also the presumed cause of the closure of a Ford dealership in the city after an attack by armed civilians damaged multiple vehicles and left the owners with multi-million-peso losses.

State authorities created a special task force in August to deal with reports of extortion and so far this year the Celaya police force has hired at least 50 new officers. Police Chief Miguel Ángel Simental said they have identified areas where they will apply a new security strategy.

A group of armed men reportedly left a burning tire in front of the local government offices on Wednesday morning with messages related to organized crime.

Simental said police are on the case and getting results and that the fire and messages need not create panic among the public.

Sources: El Universal (sp), El Otro Enfoque (sp)

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