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Tourism sector workers collect tolls at Tlalpan Tourism sector workers collect tolls at Tlalpan. file photo

Toll plaza hijackers get insistent in Jalisco; 20 plazas occupied Sunday

Drivers intimidated to force payment of 'voluntary contributions'

Toll plaza hijackers in Jalisco used intimidation on Friday to collect “voluntary contributions” from motorists, while at least 20 plazas across several states were occupied by protesters on Sunday.

The newspaper Reforma obtained video footage showing a group of people surrounding vehicles at a toll plaza in Encarnación de Díaz, a Jalisco municipality that borders the state of Aguascalientes.

In one video, a group of more than 10 young people stand in front of and beside a car to demand that the driver hand over an informal toll. Two people appear to strike the rear of the car, presumably after the driver refused to comply with the demand. A few seconds later, the vehicle was allowed to proceed.

Reforma said the same scene played out repeatedly for an hour. The newspaper didn’t identify the toll plaza occupiers or say why they were protesting.

Similarly aggressive tactics are also used by protesters in México state to illegally collect tolls, according to an unidentified person who spoke to Reforma.

“They’re becoming increasingly more aggressive before authorities arrive to remove them,” the person said.

However, toll plaza occupiers – among whom are protesters, students and unemployed people – are in many cases given free rein to extort motorists.

Police and the National Guard did nothing to put an end to the takeover of at least 20 toll plazas in five states on Sunday, Reforma said in a separate report, even though President López Obrador says the federal government is eliminating the problem.

Federal authorities reported that toll plazas in Sonora, Sinaloa, Morelos, México state and Mexico City were occupied.

In Mexico City, three separate groups collected tolls from motorists at a plaza in the borough of Tlalpan.

About 50 students from the Ayotzinapa rural teachers college in Guerrero took over the Mexico City-Cuernavaca highway plaza at 10:20 a.m. and collected “voluntary contributions” from motorists until 2:00 p.m.

The students subsequently handed over control of the toll booths to a group of out-of-work tourism sector drivers, who collected contributions until 3:10 p.m. before boarding buses to return to their home state of Morelos.

They justified their actions by saying that they had lost their incomes due to the collapse of the tourism industry amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tlalpan toll plaza was taken over once again at 5:40 p.m., Reforma reported. It said that a group of 100 extortioners with links to a man called Kenya Hernández occupied the plaza until 9:30 p.m. Sunday and were not bothered by authorities.

Hernández has been identified by federal authorities as one of the most violent leaders of criminal groups in México state that frequently occupy toll plazas.

He was allegedly involved in an attack at the toll plaza on the Mexico City-Teotihuacán Pyramids highway earlier this month in which two people were wounded.

Hijacking toll plazas, a lucrative activity that can reportedly yield occupiers more than 1,000 pesos per minute, has become a common occurrence in many states, costing highway operators billions of pesos in lost revenue.

Ruling party Senator Lucy Meza said last week that she would present a petition in Congress this week calling for authorities to put an end to the takeover of toll plazas.

The National Guard evicted protesters at eight toll plazas in Nayarit last month but Meza claimed that the security force has done nothing in other parts of the country to put an end to the problem.

Source: Reforma (sp)

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