Translated by O.B.F-W for Borderland Beat from a Zetatijuana BCS special report
From January to today, around 40 visiting nationals and foreigners have been victims of robbery, assault, kidnapping and homicides in La Paz and Los Cabos.
Cabo San Lucas, Baja Californian Sur
The climate of violence and insecurity that prevails in Baja California Sur threatens tourists both from Mexico and foreigners in the destinations of the beaches of La Paz and Los Cabos, who since January until now, become part of the raw statistics of robberies, assaults, disappearances, and even murders.
The 40 victims, according to the investigations previously opened in the PGJE, involved people from Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua, Jalisco, United States, Canada, France and Germany.
According to a tally by Zeta investigations, visitors were attacked on the following dates and locations:
12th of January. The American Elijah Warren Hernandez, 26 years of age, disappeared after leaving the commercial plaza of Golden Palace in the port of Cabo San Lucas: since then no one knows of his whereabouts.
8th of March. A group of 25 Mexican, French, German and American tourists, were robbed at gun point when resting and walking in Espiritu Santo Island in La Paz.
18th of March. The Canadian Marty Gary Atwood, 50 years of age, was found dead from a blow to the head, close to Puente del Arroyo El Tule, in the tourist corridor of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.
22nd of March. A group of ten Mexican and American tourists were robbed by two men, when dining at the restaurant El Temple in Calle Miguel Hidalgo in the Colonia IIdefonso Green in the port of Cabo San Lucas.
23rd of March. The association of settlers from Medano Beach in Cabo San Lucas, filed a complaint against a gang of pick pockets who stole from three foreigners, while they ate, drank and had fun at Mango Deck restaurant and Edith's, in full spring breakers high season.
The climate of insecurity, and with all the related killings between cells of Damaso Lopen Nunez "El Licenciado", and Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, of the Sinaloa Cartel, for control of the narco trafficking in La Paz, provoked the State Department of the Government of the United States to put out an alert about the level of violence.
The Government of this country recommended its nationals "to take precautions if planning to travel to the State of Baja California Sur, above all La Paz and Cabo San Lucas which recorded a growth in criminal acts related to organized crime."
The warning was a blow to both beach destinations, while entrepreneurs in the tourism sector requested an audience with the Governor of Baja California Sur, Marcos Alberto Covarrubias Villasenor, where they could express concern after such a positive year in the travel industry.
The President of the Association of Business and Hotels and tourism of La Paz, Eduardo Herrera, declared "We don't want this type of alert, we are worried and we are planning a strategy to reverse all this."
The first to take the plunge were the entrepreneurs in Los Cabos, who requested an urgent meeting with the Consulate General of the United States in Tijuana, where they stated that "most of the homicides were committed in urban areas completely away from the Zona Dorada, the beaches of the historic centre, so they requested a reconsideration on the travel alert, according to the President of the Business Coordination Council of Los Cabos, Julio Castillo Gomez, "seriously affected the image of the state as a tourist destination."
The concern about the violence has been such that even two representatives of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico, James Andrew McLaughlin and Jose Roberto Guerrero Gallardo, First Secretary and safety officer of the Canadian representation, respectively had a meeting on the 24th of March with the Mayor of Los Cabos, Jose Antonio Agundez Montano, to discuss the issue of security and the guarantee of safety for their fellow citizens.
During the meeting, the Mayor said Cabeno were redoubling their efforts to safeguard the integrity of tourists, and even boasted of a permanent coordination of Municipal Tourism Police, the State Preventative Police, Gendarmeria and the Armed Forces.
Obviously the multi-faceted coordination has not been a determining factor in curbing the crime wave that struck tourists, whose cases gradually began to appear in media in the United States, Canada and Europe.
About the attacks on tourists, the Secretary of Tourism, Ruben Riachi Lugo, affirmed that the posture of the Government is of "absolutely zero tolerance", it will not permit this phenomenon to grow so it can affect the image of Los Cabos as a tourist destination.
The functionary remarked that wherever there was a crime, it cannot be duplicated including against any citizen, so they are reviewing and analysing the situation of each case and then take immediate action.
The last time that the American Elijah Warren Hernandez was seen physically, was the 12th of January 2015, when he posted a Selfie on instagram, from the Golden Palace commercial plaza of Cabo San Lucas.
The youngster of 26 years, was dressed in jeans, a t shirt the color of wine, and was listening to music, since then relatives have heard nothing from him.
The parents of the missing person are not wealthy people. On the contrary, his mother, named Teresa, is a housewife and sells natural essences and his father, named Martin, sells glass in a village, east of Dallas Texas.
His parents contacted ZETA and they said they were very worried and that it was strange and suspicious that their son had disappeared, they suspect that the Governments of the United States and Mexico have not been able to establish his whereabouts. Its as if the earth had just swallowed him up.
He argued that it was "the call of God", well to help in the construction of a church in the irregular area knows as Caribbean in Cabo San Lucas.
According to his parents, the American lived in an office for the care of the congregation, where they would get food and would be actively involved in promoting religion in their free time.
On the afternoon of the 12th of January, the youngster left the congregation room and did not return. His parents waited until the 14th of January, that is to say, two days after his disappearance.... and when we went to the airport Love Field in Dallas Texas, you never got off the plane.
"We thought something had gone bad", said his father who immediately called the leader of the religious congregation, Raul Garcia, who sent back a text message confirming that his Son had left his room but had never returned.
The leader of the congregation thought that Elijah was with his family, but when they confirmed his absence, he supposed that he had gone to a party and had missed his flight.
"How is it that my Son has disappeared in a Town so small, and that no Authority recognised this, and that they had not reported that an American Citizen disappeared with his passport, wallet and cell phone?". questioned the father.
For this situation, the parents of Hernandez travelled on the 17th of January to Cabo San Lucas to have a reunion with the leader of the religious congregation and an Agent of the Consulate of the United States in Cabo San Lucas, together they presented an official missing persons report, registered under the number CSL/43/AMP4/2015.
The bereaved parents spoke with the religious Church members, neighbors, friends, aquaintances and congregations of other religions. Nobody had any idea of how or in what way he could have disappeared.
Completely desperate with the inefficiency of the Mexican Police, during the first week of February, Hernandez parents, they went to the FBI who refused to start a search by using international treaties with Mexico.
A spokesman for the FBI recommended that the parents contact a Private Investigations Agency to find their Son, for the reason "the Mexican Police are corrupt" and he had little doubt that they could have been involved in his disappearance, especially since they had been involved in express kidnappings and assaults on tourists.
Hernandez parents then contacted a professional agency with extensive experience in recovery of lost people, who charge $100,000 for a six to eight month search.
Because of their precarious financial situation, the parents opened a fund in the name of Find Elijah Hernandez, which promotes the donation of funds to be used to pay for the search.
Before the close of the edition, they had raised $6715.00
In parallel the families of the disappeared offered a reward of a million pesos to whomever can provide information leading to the whereabouts of the youngster, who has been missing for over 75 days.
The most grave commentary, is that the Police and communication media have kept silent about the case.
Almost two months after, that is to say, the 8th of March, a group of ten tourists including foreigners travelled to the island of Espiritu Santo in La Paz, Baja California Sur, where they were assaulted around one in the afternoon by three armed men when they were enjoying lunch on the beach zone.
The foreign tourists were from France, United States and Germany, according to the preliminary investigation LPZ/134/AMP2/2015 - they had left the seaside Boulevard at approx. 09:00 am. First they headed to a point known as "El Mogote", then went on to pick up other Mexican tourists from Nuevo Leon and Chihuahua and headed to "El Tecolote" beach.
They subsequently travelled to the island, making a tour of their surroundings, ending at point known as "Ensenada Grande", the boat named Chicanera stopped the boat so the tourists could enjoy a swim while the boat crew prepared food.
About ten to twenty minutes later, according to the Boat Captain, Jesus Montes Gonzalez, two men suddenly approached and ordered the tourists to lie down on the ground.
" I turn around and did not throw myself to the floor, thinking this is a joke, and one of them threatened me with a gun, a 9mm pistol, he aimed at me from a distance of 2 metres and told me this was not a joke."
Then he asked me twice if I did not believe him, then he threw me to the ground and began to ask all the tourists to take out their belongings and wallets.
The witnesses described the two assailants.
1. Swarthy complexion, about 1.80 metres tall, thin build, short brown hair and young in appearance.
2. Robust complexion, short black and white hair, height of 1.60 metres, around forty years of age.
The tourists explained that one of the two criminals, was stealing the items, while another covered the tourists with a gun, and another waited in an old white boat, which had just arrived at the place.
The Captain of the boat stated that once they had finished the robbery, one of the criminals approached his boat, started it and steered it out of the cove, when almost at the entrance, they seized another of the companies boats, "El Tecolote", where they borded and gave an ultimatum to the tourists on board, threw them to the deck of the boat and stole their belongings and a communication radio.
According to preliminary investigations the other vessel had seven tourists more on board.
After the second assault, the modern pirates returned to where their first victims were, aboard a boat of the company named Marlin Adventure, they tried to steal that boat but it had been securely anchored.
According to the complaint, at that time "we saw that two more boats were arriving, and thinking there were about to flee, they jumped onto another boat named "Low End", robbed six more tourists and stole their belongings and motor keys.
According to testimony, the three attacks occurred in a space of 15 to 30 minutes. Seeing armed people one of the Captains hid his cell phone, with which he was able to call for help from the top of a nearby hill.
Then the Captain of the Port and Secretary of Naval Vessels arrived to undertake an unsuccessful search for the criminals.
The victims testified that the three thieves stole money, credit cards, wallets, official identification, hotel keys and rental car keys, also watches, glasses and all their clothing.
The boat stolen by the robbers was white with yellow markings, registration number 03040203014-7, 25 feet long, and named Chicalera, with a 200 horse power engine made by Yamaha, registered with the Harbormaster since 2005.
The 25 tourists the came distributed on the boats in the following manner.
Ten in the first boat attacked, six French Nationals, three Mexicans and an American.
Seven in the second boat, four German Nationals and three French.
Six in the third and last boat, four Americans and two Mexicans.
The Prosecutor Adonai Carreon Estrada said he was worried about the bad image that tourists have of the State, and explained that "they opened two lines of research" on multiple assaults, in addition to collecting data and evidence that allow the suspects to be found.
They managed to find the boat stolen that day, after it was abandoned in an area of Mangrove between La Paz and Pichillingue, where some belongings of the tourists were found.
The head of the Attorney Generals of Justice of the State, (PGJE) cited that from the time of the robbery, there were in permanent contact with the Secretary of State for Tourism, that they attended to the victims and immediately established a search for the thieves, unfortunately with no results.
The good thing is that, according to the Prosecutor, no one has returned to present other lamentable acts of assault on tourists in this zone after this first case, one of a kind, and that we don't have anyone registered recently in our archives that allow it to be linked to other places, because this is not a constant activity within the island.
Even when Carreon didn't want to talk about the two lines of investigation, an investigative Agent of the PGJE said it was the first case where the involvement of organized crime in a crime of common law, cells can be warned because two of them have been identified as belonging to " La Fueza Especiales de Damaso."
The names and nicknames of the two men presumed responsible are declared as Jesus Alberto Lopez Zatarain "El Yuca", detained on 11th of March after having a gunfight with elements of the Marines.
In fact, it just happens that the confrontation between "El Yuca" and the Marines happened in the same area of Mangroves where they found the abandoned stolen vessel three days before, and they are preparing to go kidnap some rivals who would arrive aboard the ship California Star at the sea terminal of Pichilingue.
The hitman gave the coordinates of the area known as the mangroves, in which he had abandoned the boat that was stolen, and planned giving this as a blow to heat up the Authorities.
For now the Port Authority and the PGJE reinforced security on the island, where it had to send many armed agents to secure the area which receives two hundred tourists visits per day.
The Last Assault
Even when there are no detainees, but some data about the alleged attackers of the multiple assault on Espiritu Santo Island, on the 22nd of March, another case of tourists being assaulted rocked Los Cabos.
That night, a group of ten tourists, Mexican and American were eating quietly when they were surprised by two men in the restaurant "El Templo" in Cabo San Lucas.
The tourists who originated from Jalisco and the United States, were eating around 11:30 pm when, according to testimony, two males entered. One wore a wrestlers mask of El Santo and the other of Abismo Negro, then brandishing knives they first robbed the resturants cash register, then robbed the diners.
The robbers stole wallets, cell phones, watches and chains of the tourists, a 61 year old American put up a struggle, the robbers punched her in the face cutting her on the right side eyebrow.
The American lady named Letida Noel, according to the Municipal Police of Los Cabos, she had refused to hand over her passport, instead she threw it on the floor and the thieves fled aboard a Blue Jeep Liberty Pickup.
The assault was captured on the security cameras in the restaurant, where they captured images of the faces of the two criminals when they left running and pulled off their masks before entering their vehicle.
With the faces of the robbers, the Los Cabos Municipal Police and the State Ministry mounted a search operation, for the men who they caught the following day and identified as:
* Jose Luis Valenzuela Flores, 26 years of age, living in Villa Mallorca, Manzana 15, Lot 34, in the Villas de Cortes Colonia in San Jose del Cabo.
* Hector Manuel Dominguez Morales, 27 years of age, living at Avienda de los Rios and Sobarzo Loaiza number 449, in the Luis Donaldo Colosio Colonia, in Puerto Penasco, Sonora.
The two robbers still had in their possession, two I-Phones and two Passports of Americans.
"We continue to be worried about the situation in Baja California Sur": Andrew S.R. Erickson Consulate General of the United States.
"We have seen and increase in violent incidents and criminality, on the 24th of December we initialised our Travel Alert for the first time including the following specifics for Baja California Sur: Cabo San Lucas and La Paz are the principal city tourist destinations in the State of Baja California Sur, take precautions in the State Capital La Paz. According to the Government Secretary of Mexico, in 2013 Baja California Sur registered more instances of homicide since 1997. Many of these homicides occurred in La Paz, where there has been an increase in violence related to organized crime. Since we initiated this alert, we have continued to monitor the situation in Baja Sur, without noticing anything major. We continue to worry about the situation in Baja California Sur".
Original article in Spanish at Zetatijuana