Tuesday, July 23, 2024

San Miguel de Allende mayor ‘cares only about rich people and tourism’

The San Miguel de Allende government and Mayor Luis Alberto Villarreal “only care about protecting rich people and tourism.”

Those are the words of Isael González, director of a program that steers young people away from violence and the use of drugs.

He told the newspaper El Universal that young people from marginalized neighborhoods in the tourism-oriented colonial city are killed every week in drug-related homicides.

“There are deaths every week related to the crystal [methamphetamine] market. They’re young people from marginalized neighborhoods aged between 13 and 28,” González said.

“The government and Mayor Villarreal don’t care about young people dying, they only care about protecting rich people and tourism.”

A case in point is the murder of a man in May. A 26-year-old bartender, father and drug addict identified only as Sebastián by El Universal was shot 24 times by two men who broke into his family’s San Miguel home.

His cousin Mariana said that state police took a couple of hours to arrive at the home and that during their visit they searched Sebastián’s room.

“There were remains of marijuana, three small bags of cocaine and a jewelry bag filled with pure methamphetamine. An officer said that we were victims of the circumstances, and as there were no weapons, no more drugs or signs of trafficking, his work ended there,” she said.

Mariana said that she and Sebastián’s sister reported the murder at state police offices. The last contact the family had with police was at the end of June, she said.

“After that we didn’t hear from them again. There were no more efforts, they didn’t question any witnesses, nobody has been ordered to stand trial,” Mariana said.

The failure to arrest the killers in the case is not unique among the 76 homicides committed in San Miguel de Allende between January and November.

Mariana, the cousin of a murder victim, claims little was done to investigate the killing.
Mariana, the cousin of a murder victim, claims little was done to investigate the killing.

Indeed, Mayor Villarreal said in a radio interview in July that most homicide investigations “haven’t proceeded” because they were considered “settling of scores” and “the vast majority of those murdered had criminal records.”

In another interview, he said that murders in San Miguel de Allende were related to drug trafficking. However – as police noted – there was no evidence that Sebastián was a drug dealer.

The number of murders in San Miguel has tripled this year compared to 2018 but it’s not the only crime that is on the rise: the incidence of burglaries, drug trafficking, malicious injury and fraud have all increased since 2016, according to official statistics.

In addition, there were two femicides in each of 2018 and 2019 and for the first time ever, a case of extortion was reported this year, El Universal said.

Villarreal last week rejected a story by the news agency Bloomberg that drug cartels have infiltrated San Miguel but the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) said in a report earlier this year that the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel are engaged in a turf war in the city.

According to the FGR, the former cartel is responsible for most of the acts of extortion and the latter is the main instigator of violence. The arrest of 10 suspected members of the Santa Rosa Cartel in San Miguel in October is also incongruent with Villarreal’s claim that cartels have not moved into the city.

In addition, Mexican and foreign residents challenge the mayor’s assertion that organized crime groups are not operating.

An unidentified shopkeeper whose business is located in the historic center described this year as “extremely violent” and asserted that all crime in San Miguel is related to drug trafficking and the cartels.

He told El Universal that he and most other residents have changed their daily routines out of fear, explaining that they don’t wear any jewelry and avoid certain areas of the city at night.

“I’ve been told extortion stories,” the shopkeeper added.

“There are neighbors who have approached me to ask for advice, people who had always worked without problem find that they now have someone suddenly arriving at their establishment wanting something that they have. The authorities deny it, they say that nobody has approached them to report extortion but what happens when you report it? They kill you,” he said.

German mechanic Matthias Heyer, one of more than 10,000 foreigners who call San Miguel home, said the situation in the city is becoming increasingly “brutal.”

He told El Universal that he took the decision at the start of the year to employ armed security guards around the clock to protect his workshop on the outskirts of the city. Heyer also said that his sister was assaulted outside a cantina and that other people he knows have suffered the same fate.

He added that the sound of gunfire is becoming more common in San Miguel, his Mexican friends and employees are scared that they will be victims of crime and three or four of his foreign customers have left the city.

The 49-year-old asserted that “when someone dies, nothing happens here,” claiming also that if one person involved in the trafficking of drugs is killed, three more dealers come into San Miguel to take his place.

“[The problem] is like a hydra and I feel that the authorities are doing nothing,” Heyer said.

A local gangster and meth addict identified only by the nickname Jaguar also said that violence is on the rise in the Guanajuato city, which last month was named Mexico’s best destination by Food & Travel Mexico magazine for the second year in a row.

“. . . San Miguel and the neighborhoods are now rougher, more violent. Almost everyone [involved in crime] uses a firearm . . .Things are rougher because of drugs. There are a lot of shootings and a lot of deaths . . .”

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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