A beach at Laguna Madre. A beach at Laguna Madre.

It’s tranquil again in San Fernando: mayor

People are returning to the Tamaulipas municipality famous for its massacres

The gruesome violence that put San Fernando, Tamaulipas, on the map seven years ago has given way to peace and tranquility, says Mayor José Ríos Silva.

It was in 2010 that authorities discovered the bodies of 72 people in a warehouse in San Fernando after a gun battle between drug cartel gunmen and federal forces.

The 58 men and 14 women were migrants heading north from South and Central America. A survivor said they had been kidnapped by the Zetas cartel and killed for refusing to work for them.

That discovery was followed by another in the months after: more than 280 bodies in 40 mass graves.

The massacres were part of a wave of violence that affected the municipality for years.

Mayor Ríos estimates that over 2,000 families fled, fearing for their lives. Those who stayed left their homes only to go to work and everyone followed a de-facto curfew, remaining indoors after 5:00pm, he told the newspaper El Universal.

The violence subsided in 2014, the fruit of a joint effort by state and federal authorities. About half the families that fled have since returned to San Fernando, and stores are slowly reopening.

There have been acts of violence this year, conceded the mayor, but the levels are nowhere near what the municipality experienced between 2010 and 2014.

During the two last vacation periods, in the spring and summer of this year, Madre lake and its two recreational areas welcomed 35,000 Mexican and foreign visitors, and three recently reopened white-winged dove hunting lodges are expected to boost those figures, the mayor said.

Ríos’ two predecessors had to govern from outside the municipality due to the uncontrollable violence, but he boasts that he can do it from San Fernando proper, and without bodyguards and bulletproof vehicles.

The mayor asserted that in the past he was affected by the wave of violence, in his properties and his personal integrity, after being kidnapped in two occasions.

” . . . This municipality endured nine years of looting, of being totally beaten up by past administrations,” he told El Universal, charging that those administrations “failed to do what had to be done.”

“San Fernando was soiled, walked all over by people that weren’t from here, that’s what hit us, what gave us a bad name worldwide. What happened in 2010 was a sad act of violence, but we’re good, working people, and we’re making an effort to change that.”

San Fernando

Ríos, who was kidnapped twice during the crime wave, expects that San Fernando will be a much larger city in a couple of years, “with optimal development.”

Today, he said, “we are demonstrating that we are better than before, that one can be safe here and enjoy the fine cuisine, because San Fernando has the best seafood in the country and the best grilled meat.”

Source: El Universal (sp)

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