Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Six burned Buses in Four Days and Another Bakery Store Burned Down: Mayor Reassures Citizens

In another typical incident, at about 2:30 p.m. yesterday, a group of men entered a bus terminal downtown looking for a bus from the Circunvalacion route. They found it parked and waiting for its turn to leave the station and then ordered the passengers and chauffeur at gunpoint to get out of the bus. They threw gasoline into the bus and set fire to it before leaving the scene. This was apparently another case of reprisals by extortionists. Passengers simply boarded the next bus, according to La Polaka, with their eyes firmly fixed on the ground.

This was the sixth burned bus in the last four days. Bus drivers have increasingly been asked to pay weekly quotas to extortionists by skimming off revenues from fares. Many unpleasant and sometimes lethal incidents have occurred in front of passengers in recent months and passengers have been demanding better security from municipal police. As a result of the increase in extortion to buses, those who have bus concessions have been forced to cut their services and on the maintenance of their vehicles, creating a safety issue for passengers.

Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz, who is moving to Las Cruces this week (moving vans have been seen at his home in El Paso), announced yesterday he was placing 100 more police, many of the under cover, on the buses to try to stem this trend.

Yesterday a bakery store in Col. El Granjero was riddled with bullets and later burned, apparently because the owners refused to pay the quota demanded by extortionists. Witnesses said the incident took place at around 2 p.m. when a group of men began firing shots into the bakery store, which was closed for lunch, then broke the windows and threw gasoline into it, setting fire to the store and also to a van that was parked in front. These crimes have been increasing in frequency all year, causing great concern among small business owners throughout the city. Hundreds of businesses have closed as extortionists have tightened their grip on small businesses. Large businesses are more likely to be able to afford adequate private security forces, but they have not been entirely exempt, either.

Compiled from stories in Norte, Diario, La Polaka

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