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There were reports earlier this year of extortion in the artisans' market. There were reports earlier this year of extortion in the artisans' market.

San Miguel mayor refutes story about infiltration by drug-dealing cartels

Luis Alberto Villareal says only one case of extortion has been reported

The mayor of San Miguel de Allende has rejected a story by the news agency Bloomberg that said drug cartels have infiltrated the Guanajuato city.

Published on Tuesday, the story said cartels had moved in to San Miguel to deal drugs and extort businesses.

The murders started soon after, Bloomberg said, citing the death of a restaurateur who was shot in front of his horrified customers and the homicide of the son of the owner of a construction materials business.

The story also said that the owners of several businesses, including cantinas, a restaurant and a convenience store, closed their doors after “shake-down visits” in the city in which an estimated 10,000 expatriates – mainly Americans and Canadians – live at least part of the year.

“San Miguel has joined the chilling list of tourist destinations – Cancún, Los Cabos, even Mexico City itself – that are losing their perceived immunity from the drug wars that have ravaged much of Mexico for years, captured in headlines about beheadings, mass graves and broad-daylight shootouts,” Bloomberg said.

In response, Mayor Luis Alberto Villareal – who didn’t respond to a request for comment before the story was published – said in a letter that San Miguel is not losing its immunity from cartel violence. Any such perception is “fed by the gossip and opinion of very few residents,” he said.

The murders cited by Bloomberg, Villareal said, “unfortunately took place in San Miguel but don’t represent the everyday life and good social environment in this town.”

In a statement posted online, the municipal government said that it “categorically denies the publication made by the Bloomberg Group, which, without any basis, stated in an article that this municipality is gripped by organized crime.”

The government said that statistics from the National Public Security System are sufficient to refute the claim.

“. . . The statistics tracked by that office only record a single case of extortion in the municipality through October 2019. In this municipality, there are no protection payments being demanded,” the statement said.

“In the same way, there are no records of kidnappings and the official figures for drug trafficking vary, but the month that records the most arrests is August, with 14.”

Mayor Villareal: 'good social environment'
Mayor Villareal: ‘good social environment’

The government said that much of the Bloomberg story describes “unfortunate events” in other parts of Guanajuato and Mexico and “the few cases” cited that did occur in San Miguel are not representative of the city.

“There is clearly no support to the arguments put forward with respect to San Miguel de Allende because it only bases itself on the statements and opinions of very few citizens, most of them speaking anonymously,” the statement said.

“In San Miguel de Allende, there are hotel managers, restaurateurs and public figures who are willing to speak freely without fear and with first-hand information.”

The government also said that “this type of publication only damages the economies of thousands of San Miguel families . . . that have dedicated themselves for decades to the hospitality services industry.”

Bloomberg noted that the local chapter of the Business Coordinating Council (CCE) also wrote to challenge some parts of its story. None of its members, the CCE said, has complained about an increase in crime or shakedowns by cartels.

However, in the same letter, local CCE president José Torres said “it’s correct to say there’s been an increase in the use and influx of drugs in our town” and that the homicides there were likely “directly or indirectly related to drug trafficking.”

Other media outlets have also reported about increasing crime in San Miguel de Allende. A report by the newspaper El Universal in July said that crime including extortion had increased in the city following the federal government’s crackdown on fuel theft.

Members of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel began to diversify their criminal activities and found a fertile hunting ground in the colonial city, El Universal said. The newspaper also said that the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which is engaged in a bitter turf war with the Santa Rosa gang, also operates in San Miguel.

Ten suspected members of the Santa Rosa cartel were arrested in the colonial city in October, seven of whom were high-priority targets, according to state Attorney General Carlos Zamarripa Aguirre.

Source: Bloomberg (en) 

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