State Failure, Acapulco Edition

We recently blogged about the terrible violence afflicting Guerrero, Mexico and particularly Acapulco.

Instead of pleading for more security (which I’m sure they have done numerous times), the Association of Coastal Merchants (Asociación de Comerciantes Establecidos de la Costera) in Acapulco has formally requested that they be excused from paying government taxes because they already pay so much to organized crime in extortion.

They note that there have been a lot of murders because of their inability to pay double (both taxes and extortion fees).  Almost 200 businesses in the area have already closed their doors because of a deadly combination of extortion, violence, and drop in tourism.  The group predicts many more will follow suit.

That’s a sad recognition of how little the state actually governs in Guerrero.

The most bad-ass doctor ever

In an interesting article on drug cartels and extortion in Mexico, there are some unbelievable tidbits on a bad-ass doctor that refused to pay up.

Here’s how the good doctor originally reacted to extortion demands:

“When the threatening phone calls demanding $20,000 in protection money began in December, Dr. Roman Gomez Gaviria shrugged them off, believing his clinic on the outskirts of Mexico City couldn’t possibly be of interest to criminal gangs.”

Then, in what seems like an understatement, the doctor’s “sense of security was shattered when three armed men barged into his office screaming ‘Dr. Roman, you bastard, where are you?'”

The armed extortioners tried to drag the doctor out of the clinic and he makes this awesome statement: “They thought that, because I’m a doctor, I wasn’t going to resist.”  I don’t think it’s just because he was a doctor, I think they thought he wouldn’t resist because he valued his life.

So how did things work out?  The doctor “managed to break free from his kidnappers, grab one of their guns and shoot two of them to death at close range.”

He claims to live in fear of extortioners now but I think instead that they should live in fear of him!

A sad state of affairs: violence in Latin America

1. To avoid crime, Venezuelans run together “Pereira still jogs at night. But she goes with friends, plenty of friends — as many as 300 of them, a huffing, heaving mass of people who chug in unison along darkened streets three nights a week.”

2. A Never-Ending Mission: Soldiers as Police in Mexico “In mid-May, the residents of La Ruana and other towns in Mexico’s western state of Michoacan lined roadsides to cheer the arrival of thousands of soldiers to their territory. ‘After three months of fighting, we can sleep peacefully in our homes,”‘enthused the leader of a group of townspeople who had formed a self-defense militia to defend against the violent drug trafficking organizations blatantly controlling the area.”

3. How Drug Cartels Conquered Mexico  “Viridiana Rios and Michele Coscia of Harvard University created a program called MOGO that searches specialized blogs, local newspapers and Google News for references to the different cartels, their locations and their influence between 1999 and 2011.” Excellent maps showing the evolution of drug cartels in Mexico (I’m late to this news but I post it anyway because it’s really innovative and interesting).

4. A weeklong look at violence in the region by NPR. Here are some of the ones I found most interesting:

Once Home To A Dreaded Drug Lord, Medellin Remakes Itself

Mass Kidnapping Puts Mexican Legal System On Trial

Honduras Claims Unwanted Title Of World’s Murder Capital

Extortion Common For Latin American Businesses


and lastly, the piece that really floored me:

4. The Most Dangerous Job in the World: How did 900 bus drivers end up dead in Guatemala City? “Over the next few years, some 40 Libertad drivers would be killed, and the company would pay more than $600,000 in extortion. And Libertad wasn’t the only company under threat. All over the city, cheap cell phones appeared in bus-company offices. Anonymous voices demanded money. In almost all cases, it was paid. And still the killings continued.”