Saturday, December 24, 2011

300 businesses close in Cancún, Riviera Maya due to 2011 narco extortion, threats

The peninsular newspaper Por Esto reports in its today edition that 2011 was a terrible business year for Gold Coast merchants and retailers on Mexico's luxurious Caribbean shore. They're trying to ride out the combined effects of a worldwide recession and the rapidly spreading power and influence of ruthless drug cartels, especially Los Zetas.

In October Por Esto reported that drug cartels, notably Los Zetas, were taking over all kinds of businesses in Quintana Roo -- restaurants, bars, night clubs, etc. The area includes such travel destinations as Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Isla de Mujeres and surrounding communities. All have long been international favorites, popular with North Americans and Europeans alike. But now their future is uncertain, as the drug traffickers branch off into collateral businesses and integrate themselves into mainstream commercial enterprises.

Quintana Roo trade groups claim that more than 300 local establishments closed their doors this year, primarily due to extortion and organized crime threats, according to the paper. In 2009 the number was 70, and in 2010 it was 120, reports Por Esto. The problem is said to be particularly serious in Playa del Carmen. In the nearby resort of Isla de Mujeres, two women, allegedly drug peddlers, were executed in a hotel room in October.

"The combination of insecurity and the financial crisis has put us between a rock and a hard place, and as a result many businesses have closed," an official told the newspaper. He said that extortion threats -- or those reported by local business owners -- increased 150% in 2011. The official also said that on one main commercial street in Playa, 99% of all businesses pay the so-called "derecho de piso," which may be loosely translated as a floor charge or rent. It is an extortionist's fee, generally collected weekly, which the owner of a business must pay in order to avoid violence to his property, family or to himself. Many Cancún establishments also pay such fees, according to the official, who said that most extortion goes unreported because there is little confidence in local law enforcement.

Quintana Roo has recorded about 70 organized crime executions in 2011, five of which have occurred in December. Authorities in Q.R. state say that more narco violence can be expected in the months ahead, as Los Zetas and Los Pelones, a smaller and lesser known group, struggle for control of local drug markets and related criminal industries.

Aug. 27: Zeta extortionist arrested after demanding 40,000 pesos ($3,100) a month from "Pushy Cats," a Playa del Carmen nightclub.
June 16: Riviera Maya hotel owner refuses to pay the "rent," so extortionists execute him.
June 20: A Q.R. newspaper reports that extortion fees for a hotel of ordinary quality in Playa del Carmen average 20,000 pesos a month, and much more in "luxury" establishments. That's $1,300 USD at a 14-1 exchange rate. About 90% of all businesses along Fifth Avenue, where the Caribbean Paradise is located, pay the derecho de piso. Businessmen are again considering a request for Mexican armed forces to assist with local policing.
June 19: Ejecución del crimen organizado.

Extortion in Mexico: one way it's done:
Plenty of empty hotel rooms available on Isla de Mujeres:
Q.R. state considers gay weddings to promote critical tourism industry:

This victim, killed in Cancún this week by cartel sicarios, had a hand written narcomensaje, or executioner's note, left on his battered body: "Feliz Navidad, Jo Jo Jo (Ho Ho Ho)."

This former Playa del Carmen police officer was found brutally executed on December 10. He had been almost decapitated by sicarios. Authorities suspect that he was working for the Los Pelones drug cartel the entire 18 months he was a cop. The odds finally caught up with him. The story.

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