Acapulco, Guerrero — Business owners in the city of Acapulco say that extortion fees are killing local businesses with some paying as much as 500,000 peso per month.
In the last several days, four people in Acapulco have been killed in the middle of the zocalo, three of whom were merchants in one of the sectors most affected by extortion.
One local businessman who wished to remain anonymous, said over the past two years, he has paid two million peso to protect himself and his business. He says there are three groups in the city that extort money from businesses in the way of “floor rights”.
The three known groups are Capuchino, El virus and El ruso which are considered to be the strongest, however Roberto Álvarez Heredia, spokesman for the Guerrero Coordination Group, points out that there are other groups.
“There are 3, 4, 5 groups that are contesting each space of Acapulco,” with others being El 14 y El 20 and before, el Cida. The extortionists use minors to collect the money from their victims while they watch from a block or two away. Money is also collected through direct deposits at convenience stores.
The business sector says that this year they are facing a worsening situation with several organizations asking for floor rights. Businesses that do not pay often have retaliation, threats are a constant as are extortion messages.
One such extortion message from El 20 was “I am commander Benjamín Flores of El 20. We are the people of the Independent Cartel of Acapulco. Now, listen to me very well. The respect is going to be given to you. My people do not have the right to disrespect businesses, go to a restaurant or appear at gunpoint, but if you fail me, it’s going to be the opposite. There is no longer going to be an arrangement. You are going to have to put together the funeral, because I have come to fix this for good.”
Acapulco merchants point out that since 2016, the attacks against businesses has intensified and that criminals are attacking businesses who do not pay.
In Acapulco, some merchants pay up to 500,000 peso a month in extortion fees. One man says he has been keeping the receipts of the deposits he makes every two weeks to criminals to let him operate his business in Acapulco. In 24 months, the account is two million peso paid out.
Another business owner says “We started paying around 15,000. Right now we are paying around 40,000 peso. We do not dare to make complaints because we believe that the authorities are in collusion with these people. Basically what they tell you is better deal with them, but you will not be able to with these people because they have a lot of power.”
The Government of Guerrero admits that the situation is serious because the criminal groups have fragmented and the problem of extortion as a crime is not reported, saying for this reason, they cannot fight it.
However, Roberto Álvarez Heredia explained that “Citizens have to present their anonymous complaints in order to have police develop joint operations either between the ministerial police and the army or with the navy.”
The Chamber of Commerce of Acapulco says that due to extortion, over the past three years, 1,800 businesses have closed that has left 7,200 people unemployed. The most affected businesses are nightclubs.
The government of Guerrero says that they are working on the problem which requires the involvement of all three levels of government to be resolved.