Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Extortion threats shut down tortilla shops, transit in Zihuatanejo

Violence and threats from organized crime have forced tortilla shops, schools and public transport to shut down in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, this week.

Almost all of the approximately 50 tortillerías in the Pacific coast resort town closed early Thursday, the newspaper El Universal reported. Long lines formed at the few that remained open.

Some other businesses both in the city center and working class neighborhoods closed Thursday afternoon due to the climate of insecurity that prevailed in Zihuatanejo, the newspaper El Sur said.

In addition, some schools shut their doors and won’t reopen until Monday, while some public transport services have been suspended since Wednesday.

A Zihuatanejo businessman told El Universal that tortilla shop owners had received calls and messages demanding payments in exchange for not setting their businesses on fire.

Armed men started a fire at a Modelorama beer store in Zihuatanejo Friday in what appeared to be retaliation for a failure to make cobro de piso, or extortion, payments. Firefighters extinguished the blaze and security forces attended the scene but no arrests were reported.

The El Universal source, who asked not to be identified, said the current wave of violence began Monday when a taxi was set ablaze. A public transit van was set on fire the next day, leading some transportation operators to suspend services starting Wednesday.

There were long lines of motorists at Zihuatanejo gas stations Thursday after rumors swirled on social media that they too would close. Panic buying was also reported at the Soriana supermarket, the busiest in Zihuatanejo.

A Guerrero news group on Twitter shared a photo of the long lines that formed at one Zihuatanejo gas station on Friday.

Zihuatanejo Mayor Jorge Sánchez Allec acknowledged that “very unfortunate incidents” have occurred in the city, located 250 kilometers north of Acapulco.

He said in an interview that rumors that gas stations were going to close are false and ruled out implementing a curfew. The mayor called on citizens to remain calm and noted that municipal authorities are collaborating with their state and federal counterparts on security issues.

“We’re going to contribute with whatever is necessary so that security conditions improve in the coming days,” he said.

With reports from El Universal, Quadratín and El Sur

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