Fireworks are a big part of any celebration in Mexico, from simple (but very loud) rockets to elaborate castillos, but their sale is regulated to some degree, and the regulators showed up this week at a market in Oaxaca.
An operation in the largest market of the city, the Central de Abastos, resulted in a short but tense confrontation between security forces and merchants, and the seizure of over seven tonnes of illegal fireworks.
The Public Security Secretariat reported that more than 600 state police officers were involved, backed up by the Army.
The action came after increasing reports during the last few weeks of the improper use of fireworks, and represents an effort on the part of the authorities to identify and shut down the clandestine points of sale, said Secretary Jorge Ruiz.
As the police entered the market, merchants were tipped off and moved to stop them, managing to apprehend two officers. Police used tear gas to disperse the merchants, free their colleagues and carry out the seizure, handing over the fireworks to the military for their disposal.
Reports by local newspaper Noticias de Oaxaca said a few hours later fireworks were being sold again in the same place and by the same merchants, but no further action was taken by authorities.
Illegal fireworks in Mexico are produced in unregistered factories, or enter the country illegally through Pacific ports to be transported to the Mexico City markets of La Merced and Tepito.
The products are then distributed to other states, which is why checkpoints are set up on highways entering Oaxaca city, said Ruiz.
There were arrests reported after the raid on the market.
In the state of Nuevo León, firefighters were called to 66 fires on December 24 alone, a 50% increase over the usual number. Most were started by fireworks, aided by high temperatures, said operations director Enrique Guerrero for the state’s firefighters.
So far this season, no casualties have resulted from the use of fireworks in the state.