Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Guanajuato: Not Your Old San Miguel de Allende

Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: Bloomberg
        The famous church, Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel.    Photographer: Alfredo  Estrella
                        Drug Cartels Muscle Into Mexican Town Packed With Americans
                                      San Miguel de Allende oozes old Mexico charm.
Violent gangs are pushing cocaine and imposing a brutal brand of property tax on small businesses in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato

Note: Regular BB followers have seen and/or know this material, I am posting it as one more example of how SUDDENLY bad Mexican news seems to be hitting MSM outlets more than ever, since, of course, Americans, ie US Citizens (and Canadians) are being affected. Wow.
By: Andrea Navarro  
There are the cobblestone streets, the colonial-era buildings and wrought-iron balconies, the neo-Gothic steeples soaring high above the pink-sandstone church anchoring a corner of the main plaza. Travel and Leisure magazine has twice named it the best city in the world, a ratification of how beloved it is with tourists and retirees from the U.S., Canada and beyond.

But lately, San Miguel has been attracting a very different sort of crowd: the drug cartels. And the moment they arrived and began pushing cocaine and imposing their brutal brand of property tax, the murders began.

A restaurateur died in a hail of gunfire in front of horrified customers after he refused to pay extortion demands. The son of the owner of a construction-materials business was killed on his way to work.  A tortilla shop owner in the nearby town of Celaya was gunned down along with two of her employees. And a fruit vendor, a convenience store operator, another restaurateur and three cantina owners closed their doors after shakedown-visits and, it would appear, are laying low. ( that is easy speak for bar massacres)

This kind of crime was unthinkable here just a few months ago. “It’s still hard to believe,” said Manuel, a restaurant manager who, like many others, would give only his first name for fear of reprisal.

San Miguel has joined the chilling list of tourist destinations—Cancun, Los Cabos, even Mexico City itself—that are losing their perceived immunity from the drug wars that have ravaged much of Mexico for years, captured in headlines about beheadings, mass graves and broad-daylight shootouts.

All of which presents a major challenge to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his markedly hands-off approach to crime. A leftist who took office a year ago, his strategy is “abrazos, no balazos,” or “hugs, not bullets,’’ as he has described it.  

Not only are more Mexicans being killed than ever—28,741 so far this year—but the bloodshed is complicating the president’s push to fight poverty, because it is discouraging investment and deepening the slump in an economy that slid into recession in the first half of the year. 
     Pedestrians in San Miguel de Allende.Photographer: Alfredo  Estrella/ AFP via Getty Images 

“Security is a nation-wide problem now and unfortunately no one can escape it,” said Javier Quiroga, head of the bar and cantina association in Guanajuato, the state where San Miguel is located. “It’s getting harder for people to go about their regular activities.”

Carved out of the arid plateau that runs through central Mexico, San Miguel is just a few hours drive from Mexico City. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is an Instagrammer’s dream and a favorite for foodies. The weather is near-perfect all year round. By some estimates, the population of 160,000 includes as many as 10,000 expatriates, mostly Americans and Canadians, who live here at least part-time.

The cartels have so far spared the boutiques, cafes and art galleries popular with tourists and expats. The automakers in the region, including Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co., haven’t been subjected to what small business owners have had to endure; their operations are well defended in gated industrial parks. Although the hotel occupancy fell 15% in August from the year before, according to data from the Tourism Ministry, the culprit may be the slumping economy, not safety concerns.

And strolling the main streets and alleys during the day, it doesn’t seem that anything, really, has changed. The balloon vendors still ply their trade and the stalls selling esquites—a corn-salad snack beloved in this part of Mexico—continue to do brisk business. Members of Lopez Obrador’s newly-created national guard showed up for a few days over the summer, though usually the only visible security forces are the municipal police officers in their dark navy uniforms, walking their regular beats.

Carol Quinn, a Canadian who rents an apartment in San Miguel for extended periods of time, said she’s not unconcerned by what she hears and reads about the lawlessness. “I’m a little more nervous, a bit more conscious,” she said as she sat on a bench near a church hosting a wedding.  “But I’ll still come.”

Talk to people like Manuel, the restaurant manager, and the conversation is quite different. They will tell you about the increase in criminal activity, in drug use by locals, in derecho de piso payments to thugs who ask, not politely, for money or services in exchange for letting mom-and-pop stores to continue operating. The cartels are aggressive, forcing small businesses to employ their members or to become de facto members themselves.

In August, according to local shop keepers and media reports, one gang dropped off bags of cocaine at a cantina, telling the owner they were worth 300,000 pesos ($15,300) and that the money would be collected in the next couple of weeks. The owner shut the bar and fled the city. A variation of the same happened at two other cantinas.

The office of Mayor Luis Alberto Villarreal didn’t respond to requests for comment about the crime wave, which has swept across the state. Homicides in Guanajuato have gone up by 260% since 2015; this year, 47 police officers have been killed, more than in any other state, according to Causa en Comun, ( Common Cause) a nonprofit that tracks police murders in Mexico.

                                                  Street performers pose with tourists.
One reason for the surge is that the government crackdown on fuel thefts in the region spurred cartels to look for alternative income sources to finance their operations and turf wars. Beyond that, some of the big gangs have splintered and the competition for new territory has heated up.

Drug lords “are looking to make a name for themselves and to get some money quick,” said Gladys McCormick, an associate history professor who specializes in Mexico-U.S. relations at Syracuse University in New York. “Extortion is the easiest way to do that.” 

Cartel attacks have become more brazen nationwide. In October, more than a dozen police officers were killed in Michoacan state by men in armored trucks; days later, cartel members terrorized the city of Culiacan with heavy weaponry in broad daylight. Last month, gunmen killed nine dual U.S.-Mexican citizens riding in a convoy 60 miles from the Arizona border in an area that has been contested ground for cartels. Over the weekend, armed men in several trucks descended on Villa Union, a town near the border with Texas, and began shooting up city hall. During a battle with security forces, 16 of the gunmen were killed, along with four state police officers and two civilians.   
That the drug violence has reached San Miguel de Allende “is a dark cloud on the horizon because it heralds that nowhere is safe anymore,” McCormick said. “The fact there is such an international presence in San Miguel de Allende guarantees that the fear felt inside the city will echo beyond Mexico.”

36 comments:

  1. The beltrans or Don Hector had been laying low in San Miguel for a while with zero violence with minimal drug use.

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    Replies
    1. 109 murders so far this year is zero violence? It used to be zero violence when I was living there but SMA was not immune to the crisis.

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    2. Greedy narco-governor sinhue (PAN) does not care about it, he creates crime through his state's attorney and fiscal to extort "more money" from the federal government, but the idea is to privatize it in his bank account while making the federal government vulnerable to foreign invasion, same as sonora, morelos, Veracruz, Sinaloa, tamaulipas, chihuahua, bajan California's and coahuila, expecting to get remunerated by the US when it is all said and done, there is Lithium in Sonora and chihuahua, oil shales and gas, mining all over, even drug trafficking to be recovered by some americans from some Mexicans, a war or an invasion "to fight terrorism" could even help save somebody from impeachment if the tail gets to wag the dog, and those who help can count on getting paid, like governor sinhue, There is also the loses caused by AMLO stopping the politicians huachicoleros from stealing from PEMEX, BLAME IT ALL ON AMLO HUGS.

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    3. Dallas Texas USA has more than that, what are you talking about?

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    4. Dallas also has nearly 10 times the population of Guanajuato

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    5. Idiota Dallas Texas dont have ppl with there faces peeled off hearts removed while alive and recorded burnt alive tortured iver and over until death becomes you... Nope Dallas not even close ..how many vendors or business owners were murdered because they didnt pay to operate within the city limits none... Nuff said ..

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    6. 8:12AM How stupid are you? Dallas metro area has FIFTY TIMES the population of San Miguel. Dallas would have to have over FIVE THOUSAND MURDERS to equal San Miguel's murder rate this year.

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    7. dallas texas has 5 times as many people

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  2. Americans may have to leave San Miguel for while. Amlo said things r getting better. It may only take 5 years, when he leaves. Suerte

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  3. What the hell, cartel men drop off a bag of drugs, at a honest working business, expect them to sell it, and in a week, they collect the money, get outta here. Next they will want you vto bathe them for free lol.

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  4. Cjng and santa rosa cartel both say they dont extort civilians so who is it ? That’s ridiculous how those low lifes take from the working class people and kil them if they dont pay. What kind of malparridos are these scum bags

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    Replies
    1. I don’t know man! But it really looks like we are getting close to the end of this era

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    2. What kind of people are the gang members? They are people that want to die; they live for death and hurt everyone and everything on their path to death. They are the incarnation of social disease that is, but a part, of a human disease that hides in popular ignorance and hidden manipulation.

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    3. Well I could say that I personally witnessed fake Zetas doing extorting back in 04/06. The real Z killed them but times change so anything is possible

      But every cartel cell works different. I guess if sicarios or halcones aren’t being payed most likely they’ll use the cartels name.

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    4. War cost money especially when facing off against a monster like CJNG and having the government essentially make you priority number 1. They were chipping away at his inner circle, seizing houses and freezing bank accounts so Marro is trying too make up the loss by other means like extortion and pressuring local shops to push his drugs.

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    5. 10:56 It is the PAN governor and his sicarios extorting the federal government through local crime, sponsored by your local private contractors posing as state police and un-armed municipales who can't do shit by design...

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    6. 2.56 pm u talkn caca . zetas?? Zetas did not exist at least not to that extent back in 04/06 the name wouldn't have been used by anyone but a Z back then they did blow up in 2010/12 is when they started owning Mx.

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  5. MEXICO NEEDS A CIVIL WAR!

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    Replies
    1. But keep those drugs coming right??

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    2. Hugs to u chivis!! Amlo says they work!

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    3. They don't have the spine for a civil war

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    4. @1:20 Buddy the US government will NEVER allow that to happen, so stop dreaming.

      Look at the history of all of Lat Am and Uncle Sam has ALWAYS made sure to assist those parties of society (=the ruling elite) working to maintain the status quo.

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    5. The "Mexican Revolution" that occurred between 1910-1920, not long ago by U.S. standards, is a very confusing historical account - check it out for yourself.
      The fact that Mexico managed to stay as one country this long with a central government that is so disconnected from the people is amazing. I think if they weren't so close to the U.S., Mexico would have been subverted external forces long ago. There are lot of reasons why the cartels have taken control of huge areas of Mexico.
      These people have felt like they should have way more control over their territories for a long time. It is a civil war, unfortunately the cartel armies are led by criminal psychopaths who know the rules of engagement as well as the tricks brutal deceit. No lives matter to them.

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  6. What's the "WOW" after the US citizens being effected. The narco state has been in and out of mainstream news for yrs. People in the US and abroad have pretty much accepted the fate of Mexico. A beautiful country that sold out to drug lords. A government that is complicit and or enabling narcos to continue to push drugs north. Not to mention killing thousands of innocent civilians along the way. The US isn't the only country the cartel's supply drugs to. At least trump offered a hand. And if they are to proud to except help, then fuck em. The wall is being built as we speak. I know my kids can walk to school safely.

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    Replies
    1. 3:29 you are so innocent, but good for you, keep dreaming.

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  7. For the past twenty years I visited Mexico beaches at least 6 weeks out of the year. Last year was my last. I used to drive from California to Puerto Vallarta that stop 10 years ago. Each week cost between $2-3K. Love the beaches but I am sticking to Florida and cruises for now. I have been extorted at hotels, criminals (do not like American Express), I have seen robberies with AK47 and I have been cased to be robbed with negative results. I will spend my pensions in the USA until shit gets fix... SDSO

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    Replies
    1. What’s so special about Florida beaches? Is basically the same as California beaches.

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    2. 3:37---- The humidity and water temperature.Try getting in 60 degree water vs 80... South florida gets all the South American (rich) refugees. San Diego is great to live in but water sucks with TJ poop and waste from the border to Coronado..

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  8. U r right cartels here Tamps. , not paying good like the old days

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  9. Why are you surprised that people become interested in news stories when those events start affecting them? Isn't that normal?

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  10. We were just there a year ago. Wow. Met so many nice ex-pats . These folks have invested lots of their retirement money in real estate in San Miguel. The people I talked to love Mexico and are involved in community volunteer work. Truly had hearts to serve. Just thinking how terrifying this outbreak of criminal activity is for all the citizens of that lovely town.
    So stressful to live on guarded edge because of cartel infiltration. Sad.

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    Replies
    1. Hard to believe the gov of Mexico isn't helping these people. It being such a sovereign country and all....

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  11. How is it surprising that people care about events when it's affecting them (and not before)???

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  12. I've been saying this for a while now. A civil war is necessary for the survival of it's people.

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    Replies
    1. Edgar, the people of Mexico would have to grow a spine for that to happen. Don't see it happening.

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    2. 2:24 you are one pinche mariguano,
      a war after the war on drugs is only needed to de-stabilize more Mexico and make it easier to steal it, and looks like there are some unqualified offers from unqualified people trying to revive "The Confessions of an Economic HitMan"

      Delete

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