Residents of Soledad Atzompa, Veracruz, were alarmed to see a drone passing over their area, so alarmed that they brought down the unmanned aircraft, destroyed it, took some state employees hostage and set fire to five government vehicles.
It appears that the residents were moved to aggression by the belief that the drone was spreading COVID-19.
In reality, the aircraft belonged to the state Public Security Ministry (SSP) and was brought in by the state search commission to look for hidden graves in Soledad Atzompa, a municipality in the mountainous central region of the state.
But to the furious locals, drones were not a familiar sight and the assurances of government personnel failed to inspire confidence. After destroying the drone, residents took state search commission employees hostage and when more state officials arrived to control the situation, their vehicles were set on fire.
“Authorities of this ministry initiated dialogue with the dissenting residents, which concluded at 9 p.m. when police withdrew from the area,” the SSP said.
The state search commission employees were then released and taken for medical attention.
Community and municipal leaders are to meet with Governor Cuitláhuac García next week, to ask that any government officials with business in the area make their presence known beforehand to avoid future “miscommunications.” The leaders said the state search commission gave no indication that they would be in the area, nor that they would be flying drones.
According to Sixto Cabrera González, a Náhuatl poet and translator from the area, the local residents are peaceful but no longer willing to tolerate having their rights violated. He said the unfortunate events could have been avoided if the government had been open about its activities.