Friday, June 21, 2024

Extortionists suspected after bomb disguised as a gift kills 2 in Guanajuato

Two men were killed and five other people were injured Sunday when a bomb disguised as a birthday present exploded in Salamanca, Guanajuato.

A courier on a motorcycle delivered a package with balloons attached to it to a restaurant/bar in the El Deportivo neighborhood on Sunday evening.

Owner Mauricio Salvador Romero and manager Mario Alberto Hernández took delivery of the package and were killed when it exploded seconds later.

Authorities are investigating what kind of explosive device was used in the attack.

Guanajuato Governor Diego Sinhué described the incident as “a terrorist attack unprecedented in the state.”

According to a report by the newspaper Milenio, Romero’s business – Barra – had been subjected to extortion demands for seven months prior to Sunday’s bomb attack. People who identified themselves as members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) were demanding payments of 50,000 pesos (about US $2,500) per week.

Family members of Romero also told Milenio that complaints about the extortion were filed with the Guanajuato Attorney General’s Office but it took no action.

Romero’s brother claimed that the attack was designed to intimidate residents of Salamanca, a city of almost 300,000 people where violence and extortion are common.

“My brother and Mario were the victims but the message wasn’t just for them,” Eddie Romero said.

“… This was a message to say that they [the CJNG] are here, … that they’re not leaving. It’s a message to cause terror, to force us to lock ourselves away in our homes,” he said.

However, the head of the Guanajuato public security system said in an interview that “this event doesn’t coincide with the intimidatory characteristics” traditionally used by criminal groups in Guanajuato, where the CJNG and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel are engaged in a violent turf war.

Sophía Huett told Radio Fórmula that one line of investigation is that the explosive device was sent to Barra to settle a personal matter – the non-payment of the weekly 50,000 peso derecho de piso fee.

But she stressed that non-compliance with extortion demands was not the only possible motive under investigation.

In a separate interview, Eddie Romero urged authorities to not just deliver justice in the case but also guarantee peace in Salamanca, located in Mexico’s most violent state.

“My family and I are completely devastated, it’s difficult,” he said. “… Beyond justice we want peace for those of us who are still here, for those who live in Salamanca.”

Sunday’s bomb attack wasn’t the first time explosives have been deployed in the city. Explosive devices were found in vehicles near the Pemex refinery in 2019 and 2020. The Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, which is reportedly backed by the Sinaloa Cartel, allegedly planted the bombs but none exploded.

“In the state of Guanajuato, more than in other places, for some time now they have begun using explosives to commit crimes, and to try to spread fear and terror,” President López Obrador said Monday. “This is a delicate situation.”

With reports from Milenio and AP 

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