Authorities have arrested eight suspected extortioners in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, where threats by criminals forced the closure of at least 20 Oxxo convenience stores this week.
Guerrero police collaborated with federal and municipal authorities on an operation that resulted in the alleged criminals being taken into custody.
“They’re extorting Oxxo stores,” said state Security Minister Evelio Méndez Gómez, referring to the eight people who were detained.
Extortion threats shut down at least 20 Oxxo stores in Zihuatanejo and the nearby resort town of Ixtapa, the news website Animal Político reported Wednesday. Some have remained closed for days. An additional three Oxxos closed in the neighboring municipality of Petatlán.
The closures came after an armed man entered a Zihuatanejo Oxxo last Sunday and demanded money, Animal Político said.
The employees reportedly told the man that they couldn’t give him the money he was asking for because it was in a safe they couldn’t access. The armed individual subsequently shot and wounded one of the workers, Animal Político said.
Extortion has become a recurring problem in Zihuatanejo, a coastal city and municipality that is one of Guerrero’s top tourism destinations.
Building supplies outlets, tortilla shops, hotels and beer stores are among the businesses that have been affected this year. Taxis and public transit vans suspended service earlier this year due to violence against drivers and threats made by organized crime.
At his regular news conference on Thursday, President López Obrador said he was unaware of the Oxxo closures in Zihuatanejo but acknowledged that extortion is a problem across Mexico.
“It is the crime that has increased the most. I would say that we’ve managed to reduce the majority of crimes, but one that is still outstanding is extortion,” he said.
The president highlighted that thousands of soldiers, marines and National Guard (GN) members are helping to combat insecurity in Guerrero, and noted that his administration is building new barracks for the GN, which is now part of the army.
“We’re going to get to 500 [barracks] across the country, we now have 120,000 National Guard members and we’re going to get to 150,000,” López Obrador said.
“… When the Federal Police operated there were no barracks. At [the force’s] best time there were 40,000 members … but no barracks. If they were sent to Zihuatanejo because there was a lot of extortion, they had to camp or live in a hotel, [it was] a regrettable situation,” he said.