SAN DIEGO – After criminals demanded $20,000 in protection money from a Tijuana businesswoman, a squad of local policemen followed up assaulting her husband and her workers, forcing her and her family to flee to San Diego.
“We want $20,000 dollars … but we’re going to give you time to get it,” was the threat that drove Silvia Vigil and her family to flee Tijuana. After a guy called “El Dulcero” sent a squad of city policemen to beat up her husband and his workers, they left.
“The criminals are their eyes. The police are the ones that commit the crimes,” said Vigil former owner of a car business in Tijuana, Baja California.
“Mexican business owners avoid the law for not following the government’s injustices, by not bowing down to corruption,” said Vigil. “In the past you could walk the streets, people would say hello, you could live freely,” she affirms.
According to the Mexican Executive Secretary of the National Public Safety System [SESNSP in Spanish] from 2007 to November 2010 the following crimes increased: homicide 22 percent, aggravated robbery 24 percent, extortion 57 percent, kidnapping 63 percent.
“They hit everybody, even the corner taco vendor in our colonia got hit; in my neighborhood there are at least six stories like mine,” said Vigil. She says when the criminals see that you’re doing a little better financially, somebody sends people out to kidnap you to take whatever little you have.
You also face the danger of being the victim of an “express kidnapping.” Two of Vigil’s brothers endured an express kidnapping in exchange for her husband, but were released without making the exchange.
According to the “White Movement” [Movimiento Blanco in Spanish] in a press release dated January 12, 2011, four of the 10 most dangerous cities in the world are Mexican; and one fourth of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world are in México.
From 2009 to 2010 the number of businesses in México dropped 9 percent, for various reasons including kidnappings and extortion.
One example is for the electricity meter to under report electricity usage. That was the case with Enrique Rosas, 41, an ex-business man of a chain of grocery stores in the State of Veracruz, where he has an outstanding 21,000 peso electricity debt but his bimonthly light bill was 8,000 pesos.
“I didn’t use that much electricity … I can’t even feel safe in my country for having told the cops I wanted no part of that,” said Rosas.
“I want to learn English, be with my wife. I want my kids to study,” he affirms. His family is in Mt. Angel, Oregon and his plan is to join them and start over. Rosas is in Casa del Migrante in Tijuana waiting for a chance to cross.
“God will see what I have done, I only want my kids to get ahead,” he asserts.
Data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography [INEGI in Spanish] from the census of the economy of 2010, indicate that 3.7% of the economically active population of México has employees; the 2009 census indicates there are 5,144,156 economic entities that employ 27,727,406 people.
“The water and power people came to charge me to receive cheaper bills,” said Marco Lara, ex-businessman of a water purification plant in Tijuana, Baja California.
Some gang members came by to demand a 500 peso weekly quota from his business. Lara ended up closing his business after he was robbed a lot of his equipment.
“I reported it but the problem is that if you don’t give them money they won’t move your case forward,” he states.
Lara is in the U.S. through NAFTA because he works for a company that builds airplane parts and is studying for his master’s in information administration.
According to the Public Safety Secretary in the internal investigations section of the Federal Police 1,041 complaints and accusations were filed in 2010 out of which 368 were settled; the rest are being processed.
Manuel Zermeño has a degree in business administration and lives in the municipality of Rosarito, Baja California. He has his own businesses and has felt the violence and corruption in his town.
Once, a policeman that he himself hired when he worked in there; charged him a quota to use the road. He reminded him that he was the one who had hired him and he immediate apologized for asking for a fee he should not charge.
“The worst that can happen is to do nothing. My whole life I have worked at my profession in this whole region,” he said.
Another time at a friend’s place of business, in a shooting, his neighbor was killed by a stray bullet.
Zermeño says that people tell him they’re afraid to go out and say they don’t let their children out for fear of the violence.
“After being a town that lived off tourism with visitors numbering up to 150,000 in a weekend, suddenly now the hotels are only 30% occupied,” asserts Zermeño.
Some Mexicans have lost faith in their government.
“México will become a land of guerillas,” said Lara.
Others continue to have hope.
“I want to see an honest government, free of violence and safe. Everything can be done and is possible,” says Vigil.