As many as 20 men were kidnapped in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, earlier this month after arriving in the resort city on a trip from Guanajuato, according to media reports.
The newspaper Reforma reported that about 20 young men were abducted on July 18 after traveling to the resort destination in all-terrain vehicles via Jalisco’s Sierra Occidental region.
Jalisco Attorney General Gerardo Octavio Solís Gómez said Saturday that about 13 or 14 men traveling in eight vehicles came under an armed attack in the Fluvial Vallarta residential area and that one of them was wounded and later died in the hospital.
“There was a series of shots. One person was left wounded at the scene, others managed to flee — some on foot, others in vehicles,” he said.
The deceased man has been identified as Joaquín Alba, a businessman from Guanajuato who supplied materials to the construction sector. At least 10 of the abducted men were also businessmen, according to Reforma.
Solís said that authorities in Jalisco are investigating the murder but asserted that they haven’t received any reports of missing people. He said that he had spoken with his counterpart in Guanajuato and that no missing person reports had been filed in that state either.
Following the attack, municipal authorities located three vehicles that apparently belonged to the men who were abducted.
An unnamed source quoted by Reforma said the assailants called family members of their kidnapping victims to seek ransom money.
However, Solís said that Jalisco authorities had no knowledge of any ransom requests.
The attorney general said that a “highly dangerous criminal cell” was believed to be responsible for the attack. One line of investigation is that the attack and abduction is related to a dispute between criminal organizations that operate in Jalisco and Guanajuato, he said.
Sources told Reforma that criminals, allegedly members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), were aware that the Guanajuato men were traveling through Jalisco and were waiting for them in Puerto Vallarta.
According to the newspaper La Jornada, one “rumor” is that alleged CJNG members identified the men as members of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, a Guanajuato-based gang engaged in a vicious turf war with the Jalisco cartel.
Puerto Vallarta is known as a “red zone” for kidnappings, with at least 11 abductions reported there in the first five months of the year.
Writing in thenewspaper El Universal, security analyst Alejandro Hope said that a mass kidnapping such as that which apparently occurred in Puerto Vallarta can only happen if there is complicity between criminal groups and and government security forces.
Abducting 14 to 20 people “in the heart of one of the country’s main tourism centers” after firing shots “is no small feat,” he wrote. “That doesn’t happen if there isn’t someone protecting the criminals.”
Hope said that it was “probable” that the victims were located by their kidnappers well before they arrived in Puerto Vallarta and that they may have even been tracked since they left Guanajuato.
“That points to an increasingly marked phenomenon: criminal networks of the country’s central west cross state borders. What happens in Jalisco has an impact on Guanajuato and vice versa,” Hope wrote.
As the attack and kidnapping occurred in Puerto Vallarta, “the incident is international news,” the analyst said.
“It could become the final blow for the tourism industry which has already taken an enormous hit due to the pandemic. In that sense, the authorities of the three levels of government would do well to design and put into operation a specific security strategy for locations with a high influx of tourists,” Hope wrote.
“The incidents in Puerto Vallarta are no small matter. They are proof of the deterioration of the security conditions in the country’s central west and a sign of the freedom several criminal groups have to operate. Hopefully this will be a wake-up call for the authorities. If a mass kidnapping is allowed to happen without a greater response, the situation could get a lot worse in a very short time.”