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isla aguada

Pirates a threat to Campeche Magical Town of Isla Aguada

Fishermen and tour boat operators have lost 500 outboard motors in the last 8 years

Modern-day pirates are threatening the lives and livelihoods of the fishermen and tourism operators of Isla Aguada, a recently-designated magical town that is part of an archipelago of islands on the Gulf of Mexico in Campeche.

Armed with weapons including guns, pirates approach fishing and tourism boats in the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna de Términos tidal lagoon and steal their motors.

Data shows that some 500 outboard motors have been stolen in Campeche over the past eight years. The impunity rate is 100%, Milenio reported.

Joaquín Echavarría, an Isla Aguada lanchero (boatman), told the newspaper that up to five armed pirates violently attack fishing and tourism boats.

“Furthermore, they’re hooded, you don’t know who’s attacking you. … When they’ve removed your motor, they leave you adrift,” he said.

“It’s a tragedy. Do you know how much a motor is worth? A motor … costs 200,000 or 300,000 pesos [about US $10,000-$15,000],” Echavarría said, adding that people have made sacrifices to save up for motors only to have them stolen in the blink of an eye.

“[My boat] is the means of support of my family, I earn my living with it, to be able to eat,” he said.

Santiago Puch, another boat owner, told Milenio that a lanchero working for him was attacked and almost killed by criminals who posed as tourists. During the 2021 Easter holiday period, he explained, the supposed tourists paid to go on an afternoon boat tour of Laguna de Términos.

When night fell and his employee and the phony tourists hadn’t returned Puch grew worried and called the latter.

“When they answered they told me they’d just killed my lanchero, that they’d left him dead on the Cayo Arena island,” he said.

He went to search for his employee and found him unconscious, but still alive. While his lanchero survived the terrifying ordeal, Puch never recovered his boat, or its valuable motor.

He has since canceled sunrise and sunset tours of Laguna de Términos due to the risk of attacks under the cover of darkness.

Lázaro Aguilar, a fisherman turned tourism boat lanchero, said that early morning and dusk are the best times to observe birdlife on the Isla de los Pájaros (Island of the Birds) as well as marine animals such as bottlenose dolphins, but he doesn’t go out at that time due to the risk of motor theft.

“We prefer not to run the risk, … for our safety and that of the people who use our services,” he said.

Echavarría called for greater surveillance of the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna de Términos. Only one navy boat is currently based at Isla Aguada.

“As the town has now become a Magical Town, I would ask that there be a little more security for everyone, both for the fishermen that go out on the Gulf of Mexico and the group of lancheros who work in tourism,” Echavarría said, adding that authorities need faster boats to be able to apprehend the modern-day pirates.

With reports from Milenio

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