Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Mexican Police Force on Strike After Grenade Attack"

We could have predicted this:

MEXICO CITY, Feb 23 (Reuters) - The entire local police force in a Mexican beach resort town walked off the job on Monday demanding better pay and benefits to compensate for the rising dangers they face from drug violence.

More than 300 municipal police officers in Zihuatanejo, a town on the Pacific coast north of Acapulco popular with foreign tourists, went on strike after grenades were lobbed at their offices over the weekend.

Some 6,000 people were killed last year in clashes between rival drug cartels and security forces that have escalated since President Felipe Calderon deployed some 45,000 soldiers and federal police around Mexico to clamp down on cartels.

More than 500 of those killed in last year's drug violence were police.

On Saturday, gunmen threw two grenades at the main police station in Zihuatanejo. While no one was killed, police say they are not adequately covered if a future attack is fatal.

"We are seeing a lot things here that we have never seen before. It is our job to serve the citizens, but we need assurances that our families will be protected if one of us is killed," a member of Zihuatanejo's municipal police told Reuters.

The police want to have direct talks with Calderon to request improved benefits and an increase in their roughly $350 (5,200 pesos) per month salaries before they go back to work. (Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; editing by Todd Eastham)

This was the story around town yesterday, but since it happened in the morning it wasn't in the daily paper. We'll pick that up later this morning.

There's a rumor going around that there was another grenade/explosion Monday afternoon around 2:30pm, somewhere near downtown. I haven't been able to find anything online about this so I'm hoping it's just over-excited tourists that are now hyper-sensitive to sounds they've never noticed before. But I talked with several people who all heard something around the same time (once again, I didn't hear anything), so we'll see. News doesn't travel very quickly down here so we may not know anything until later today.

In the meantime, there has been a marked increase in robberies, particularly from tourists. Over the weekend police raided the beach near where Ibis works and arrested people on two different nights. There have been over 50 laptops stolen from hotel rooms, and one victim I talked to yesterday said his friends were robbed at knifepoint - in their hotel room. A lot of the older hotels have open-air rooms and there's no way to keep a determined thief out.

I've made a point to only carry a little cash and leave my debit card at home, but other than hiding indoors, there's not much else I can do. Ibis and I are going snorkeling with guests from the hotel this afternoon, so that will be a nice break from the chaos. Hopefully everything will still be in one piece when we return.

UPDATE: There was nothing in today's paper about another attack, just lots of photos of the officers striking (ie, sitting around).


WendyCinNYC said...

Good God, Melanie. So there's basically no rule of law right now? Do you still have tourists coming in?

Melanie Avila said...

I picked up two couples from the airport yesterday, but I'm not sure if they know what's been going on. Fortunately there are several levels of police here and I've noticed more Federalies patrolling the streets. Plus we have a separate tourist police department. So I guess it's just the local department that's on strike.

Janna Qualman said...

Well that's a little relief, then, hearing there are still Federalies doing their job. Geez, I can't even imagine.

Erica Orloff said...

You are scaring me. Be safe.


Melanie Avila said...

Janna, it's good and bad. I'm more scared of the Federalies because that's who the drug cartels target. With more of them around I feel like there's a greater chance for more violence.

Melanie Avila said...

Erica, we'll do our best. We actually had breakfast this morning at a place near the police station and there didn't seem to be much going on. Business as usual, I suppose.

Penguin said...

Wow, if this keeps up you are going to have to change your bio.
To really roughing it, including dodging bullets and grenades.

Turkey Lurkey said...

Stay safe! (But enjoy snorkeling too!)

Melanie Avila said...

Penguin, lol. Good point. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Turkey, have I ever mentioned my fear of deep water? Especially oceans? Yeah, I'm not so sure about this snorkeling thing, but I'll at least try. I did it once in the Bahamas and was freaked out the entire time.

Penguin said...

Ditto on the freaked out when snorkeling. I sucked in water once when I was younger and had a fear ever since.

I did finally get used to it when I scraped the bottom of my brothers sailboat when we were in Indonesia.

Anonymous said...

Hey Melanie,

As everyone else has already said: keep safe!

And I certainly hope the police get their raise.

Melanie Avila said...

Snorkeling was canceled so no scary stories from me. I did manage to kick myself playing soccer, but I'll live.

Penguin, I think I've sucked in water too - it would explain the fear anyway.

Melanie Avila said...

Gypsy, me too!

Robin said...

Never leave your apartment again, OK? Just order pizza and have them slip it under the door. Other flat foods would be OK - pancakes, crepes, chicken patties (if they're pounded really thin).


Melanie Avila said...

Robin, we have bars on the door so ALL KINDS of food can be passed through them. ;)

Nadine said...

Wow, scary stuff! Keep safe!