Monday, February 28, 2011
Monterrey, nothing short of a nightmare
Altata, a Sinaloan seafood bar and restuarant in Monterrey was until recently, a hotspot for hundreds of young "regios", especially on Wednesdays when they offered a midweek “chillout” with two for one beers, shrimp aguachile, and live music.
At 11:55 pm on February 16, while more than 100 customers enjoyed a live band, an unprecedented event occurred: Seven armed men wearing ski masks, and vests marked with A.F.I.( Federal Investigative Agency)stormed the place, shooting their guns into the air. Before it was over, they had robbed the customers and raped nine women.
For several minutes after the men arrived, an eerie silence loomed in the air, only to be broken when, at gunpoint, they ordered everyone on the ground before demanding all cell phones, wallets and purses.
Two of the men went from table to table, collecting the loot. The other gunmen began separating the men from the women. “Men stay here, women to the other side”, ordered the leader.
One couple attempted to hide. They thought they had found safety until a gunman flipped the table from under which they were hiding and grabbed the young woman. Her boyfriend held tight to her wrist, refusing to let her go, until the gunmen placed a sub-machine gun to his head and ordered: "Let her go you little bastard or I’ll fucking kill you". The young man did as he was told, and watched helplessly as his girlfriend was dragged away kicking and screaming.
After the women were separated from the men, they were taken back to the kitchen and forced to undress. After seeing each woman nude, the gunmen began taking their pick. Of those chosen, some were taken to the restrooms; others were raped in the kitchen as the other women watched in horror.
Altata, with it's thatched roof and plastic tarps for walls, is a type of open air cantina. Those customers who were lucky enough to have been sitting along the open sides were able to flee while the criminals abused the women and emptied the cash register of the $70,000 peso earnings for the night.
Before the criminals left, they issued a stern warning: “We have your cell phones and your personal identifications. If you dare report this we will come for you and your family. “
A cell phone rang. One of the gunmen quickly found the young man who had hidden the phone and beat him repeatedly in the head and ribs with the butt of his weapon. The leader demanded all car keys. The vehicles they wanted were stolen, only after first identifying and, again, threatening their rightful owners.
A group of gunmen grabbed several of the naked women and fled through the rear entrance of the establishment, leaving the others, panties and bloodstains behind.
A witness reported seeing three or four naked women running towards Revolution Avenue, they were crying hysterically as they quickly flagged down a taxi and sped off into the night.
The, now closed, restaurant bar is located in Rincon de la Primavera, near Revolution Avenue. A little over a week has passed. Nearby are several other open air places to eat, their employees, who worked that night, agree the incident was nothing short of a nightmare.
One of the girls ran out. According to one of the employees, she ran straight to a police patrol car she found parked at a nearby gas station and quickly got in. The policemen, instead of helping the frightened young women, threw her out on the street. They were, said the witness, protecting the criminals.
“The State police and the criminals are one and the same, that’s why Southern Monterrey is the way it is."
Two days later, the only formal police complaint filed, was that of the owner of Altata.
Facebook and Twitter
Although authorities claim the event never happened and justify their inaction by citing the lack of formal complaints, social networking sites tell a different story.
Shortly after 1:30 in the morning, some of the young people began to give testimony to what had they had experienced. “They took the gals, forced them to undress and raped them…..man, we were having such a good time, just listening to the band, and then it happened”, wrote one young man in Facebook.
Another responded, “They beat me in the head and ribs with their guns, and then hit me several times in the face. I was in the women’s restroom, it was there they brought the women, forced them to get undressed and bent them over; they raped one of them right there in front of us.”
The first young man answered: “I was originally in the men’s restroom; they sent me to the kitchen. They got two other gals there”
Another of the young victims of the attack wrote: "As I was getting down on the ground, one of the gunmen kicked me in the back, I stayed there, with my chest and head to the ground. They had on ski masks, jeans and AFI vests. The gals were stripped naked, but since I was facing the other direction, I didn’t see what else they did. From what I could hear, they took several of them because one of them was shouting: “Move it, get in.”
Marissa, who's husband is a gynecologist in a private clinic, said two young women aged 18 and 21, went to the clinic the following morning with their mothers. They said they and several other women had been raped in a bar near Revolution. When the girls ran out, after it was over, they found two police patrol cars had been guarding the bar. Although the clinic tried to convince them to file a police report, they refused; their identification cards had been taken by the attackers. The only reason they even went to the clinic, they said, was out of fear of pregnancy. They wanted morning after pills.
Twitter and Face book users have not only become important sources of information, but also street guardians, offering immediate, real-time warnings and updates of shootings, robberies, narco-blockades, and attacks.
Three days after the events of Altata, three masked gunmen attacked a Southern Monterrey Carl's Jr. There were more than 50 customers, including children celebrating a birthday party. One of the assailants fired into the air. Between the panic and terrified cries of children and adults, the subjects stole 3 thousand pesos from the cash registers and stripped a client of his belongings. These clients, too, chose not to report the attack.
A few weeks before, Starbucks, on Eugenio Garza Sada Ave. was attacked; as were two different Generales, Alitas, and Anacua. “In all, more than 10 southern Monterrey businesses have been violently attacked recently, says Jorge Guerrero Martínez, president of the National Chamber of the Restaurants (CANIRAC). He adds that these businesses have reported up to a 75% decrease in nighttime sales.
Lack of security has drastically changed Monterrey’s night life. After 10:00 pm. The once busy streets, are deserted. Crime figures collected by private agencies reflect assaults on businesses have increased by 75%, voluntary manslaughter, 526%, and auto theft 620%.
The attacks not only affect restaurants, there have also been assaults and shootings in supermarkets, hospitals, businesses, and residencies. According to Jorge Domene, Security spokesman of Nuevo Leon, these assaults are not the acts of organized crime, but of common criminals taking advantage of society’s overwhelming sense of fear of organized crime. Furthermore, the official asked for all victims to come forward and formally report the crimes.
Facts vs Figures
Accurate figures are virtually impossible to collect. Victims have been threatened, they fear for their lives. On Sunday, February 20, 3 gunmen entered a Nogales neighborhood medical center where they robbed both the patients and the funds from the administrative office. The same thing happened at a women’s medical center near Obispado. A lone hooded gunman entered the facilities and assaulted two patients and the administrative office.
Due to the increase of assaults on restaurants, CANIRAC has distributed new preventative training manuals for employees. The mayor of Monterrey, Fernando Larrazabal, is promoting the so-called panic button in restaurants, bars and businesses. While owners in Monterrey will be charged a onetime fee of between 8 and 10 thousand pesos, the municipality of Guadalupe has begun offering them to business free of charge.
A witness of the attack on Altata painted a tragic picture of Monterrey, when he said: “You cannot live like before in Monterrey. I got caught up in the attack on the seafood restaurant, the next day at S-Mart, and yesterday, another in front of my house in Sierra Ventana. After a while, you just get used to it.”(the shootings.)