Business leaders in Acapulco are calling for a peace pact among citizens, the government and organized crime leaders, a desperate move that underscores the government’s inability to reduce violence and extortion in Mexico’s most dangerous city.
During a recent press conference, Laura Caballero Rodríguez, president of the Association of Established Coastal Merchants (Asociación de Comerciantes Establecidos de la Costera), requested a meeting with government officials and local citizens to discuss issues generated by criminal activity in Acapulco, Milenio reported.
“The call is also for our brothers in organized crime, whom we ask in a friendly way to give us a few days without violence while we hold a meeting with the state government and society in general” to discuss a pacification proposal, said Rodríguez.
Rodríguez also asked that the government cease taxing local business owners, who are unable to pay both taxes and extortion fees to criminals, El Universal reported. According to Rodríguez, 200 businesses in Acapulco’s main tourist area alone have been forced to close their stores because of extortion demands or insecurity.
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The meeting is scheduled for April 13, with Rodríguez hoping 50 local criminal leaders will later accept the terms for a pact. If the meeting does not yield a quorum, Rodríguez said business leaders would conduct a public relations campaign to deter people from visiting Acapulco’s touristy port area.
InSight Crime Analysis
Violence in Acapulco has surged in recent years. According to El Universal, the city has seen over 200 murders in 2016, and last year it was the most dangerous city in Mexico, with a homicide rate of 105 per 100,000 citizens.
This violence is being driven by competing criminal groups looking to control Acapulco, which is situated in the tumultuous state of Guerrero — an important region for drug production and transit. The city, with its port and home to many businesses catering to the tourist industry, offers a tempting target for smugglers and extortionists. Indeed, local businesses have previously complained of paying extortion fees to multiple criminal groups.
Now, it appears Acapulco business leaders are taking matters into their own hands. Whether or not their initiative proves successful, Rodríguez’s call for a community meeting, and threats to dissuade tourists from visiting Acapulco, places pressure on the local and state governments to reduce insecurity and protect citizens.
Moreover, while the government is unlikely to stop taxing local businesses victimized by extortion, the suggestion brings attention to the problem, embarrassing Acapulco officials and perhaps compelling them to take action to tackle the city’s parallel criminal structures.