Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Violence follows killing of local merchant in San Cristóbal de las Casas

The murder of artisan leader Jerónimo Ruiz on Monday has led to shootouts between armed groups in the popular tourist city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, which caused the closure of schools as well as businesses and triggered a US government security alert.

Ruiz, who was the head of the Association of Traditional Market Tenants of Chiapas (Almetrach), was killed in a drive-by shooting. 

The car belonging to Jeronimo Ruiz, who was shot dead.
Ruiz was shot whilst getting into his car. He reportedly had ties to local drug traffickers. (@Charro_Negro_Mx/Twitter)

His murder has been met with reprisals, and local newspaper El Heraldo de Chiapas has reported burning vehicles and “shootouts between two armed groups.” Social networks have also carried videos of burning buildings and crowds fleeing gunshots. 

Photographs on social media show two men on a motorcycle were shot dead later that day, bringing the death toll in the city to three. While many attribute the killings as related to Ruiz’s murder, it is unclear whether the killings of the two men is related.

Schools and shops have been closed as a result of the violence. 

While it is yet to be officially confirmed, local reports cite paramilitary forces in the area, and the “Los Motonetos” gang as responsible for Ruiz’s killing, which according to the newspaper Infobae are attributed by locals with kidnappings, extortion and other criminal activity. There are a number of self-proclaimed autodefensas — or “self-defense forces” — in Chiapas, which is Mexico’s poorest state according to 2020 data.

Jeronimo Ruiz
Jeronimo Ruiz, led an organization of artisan vendors active in San Cristobal’s popular Santo Domingo market.

Almetrach itself has been accused of operating as a gang, threatening market employees, and forcing local artisans to pay a derecho de piso “tax” to the guild in order to be allowed to operate in the area. Almetrach is most active around the Santo Domingo market, one of San Cristóbal’s top tourist attractions.

June 2022 also saw armed confrontations reportedly involving market sellers and Los Motonetos.

The United States embassy issued a security alert warning against travel to the area.

U.S. Embassy Mexico City has received reports of violence in San Cristóbal, Chiapas, following the killing of a local businessman,” said a statement on the embassy website. “On the evening of April 17, media reported the presence of large numbers of armed individuals in the Ojo de Agua neighborhood. In addition, there were reports of gunfire in the Zona Norte and military convoy movement in the area … U.S. citizens should exercise increased caution if traveling in or around San Cristóbal.” 

In recent years, Chiapas has suffered from a rash of violence since allegedly becoming a new trafficking hotspot for drugs en route from South and Central America.  

With reporting by El Pais and Infobae

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