Mexico’s Hidden Drug War: Puerto Peñasco

Link to article.

Long known as Arizona’s beach town, tourists and business owners in Rocky Point, Mexico, say a recent State Department’s travel warning about this place is unfair. Victims say otherwise. They say cartel violence in Mexico has quietly crept in and goes mostly unreported.

Last year the chief of police of this quiet resort town on the Sea of Cortez was gunned down. Since then, the stories of violence here are barely mentioned. Business owners and the town’s mayor prefer to keep it that way.

But for people like Veronica, the stories of violence are hard to ignore. Veronica is a waitress in a tourist bar here. She doesn’t want her last name used; she’s afraid she’ll be murdered for talking. She says her boyfriend was a Rocky Point cop kidnapped from their home at gunpoint a few weeks ago.

“I have to be careful, I saw the people who did it, so did my son,” she says.
Police found his body the next day. Noone can agree as to why the killers had ripped his fingernails out and shot him one time. The story barely made the Mexican press and it was never mentioned north of the border. There’s other stories.

Last week, sources gave a Fronteras Desk reporter a video of a Mexican Marine being accosted in his home by the Rocky Point police chief’s bodyguards while the chief stood by watching. In the final moments of the video, his face is shown, beaten. He shot the video on his cellphone. He filed a complaint in court.

He was beaten last March. Veronica’s boyfriend’s was killed in early April. Two weeks later, nearly the entire force held a protest, demanding the chief resign.

Rocky Point mayor Alejandro Zepeda dismisses these issues. He’s speaking through his translator, Mónica Castro. The mayor says his new chief is staying put.

“The commander is ex-military, so he’s a little bit more stricter so they have to acknowledge that change and maybe some people don’t like the changes but it’s gotta be done in order to provide better service for everybody.”

Over 35,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug wars since 2006. Fewer than three hundred were Americans. Now The State Department’s travel warning cautions visitors to Rocky Point. It’s Washington’s broadest alert yet. It advises people to stay away from entire states in Mexico and includes small towns like Rocky Point it had never mentioned before.
Steve Holder’s been coming to Rocky Point with his friends for nearly 20 years.

“Every time you come to Mexico, you make sure you’re aware, you stay alert, you be safe and go to the right areas,” he says as he smokes a cigar and orders another beer on the patio.

No American has been killed in Rocky Point as a result of the drug violence in Mexico. But fear has driven the tourists away. On a beautiful day in April, it takes eight hours to find a single American. Rafael Noriega gave up on American tourists.

The restaurant owner tried running a swank Italian place in the Old Port. Now he caters to the Mexican crowd with cheap, good red wine and five dollar pizzas.

“Only Mexicans now. Mexicans from all over around. There’s no Americans, well.”
Like the mayor, he says the little bit of violence that hit Rocky Point is the kind of sporadic violence that can hit any town in the world.

“Nothing special. There’s not violence in Puerto Peñasco,” he pauses. “Not really.”
That same afternoon, the Mexican Army storms through downtown.. Fifty-cal rifles are mounted on rotating turrets on the soldiers’ Humvee. Those soldiers had just shot a man in a white SUV.

This is the problem with reporting on the violence in this town. Two soldiers threatened arrest me when I tried to photograph the crime scene. The story didn’t appear in the town’s two major papers the next morning.

The Mexican Army never admits publicly to the shooting.


From Other Mexico Message Boards

Hi! We are camping at La Playa Perla and we like to warn travelers for these beaches. Next to us on the south side is a smaller beach and before you reach that there is a nice bluff on which you can camp. At this spot a young couple (21 and 31 yrs old) got assaulted and robbed at knife point. That happened last Friday night [April 1, 2011] at 1100 pm. Three Mex. men, one was 6.2 and like a tree stump. 

They also talked broken English, they had masks and banderas on, threatened with knifes and pointed to the things in the car that they wanted. They were sleeping in the car, a Mercedes wagon and had to stay put to protect themselves. 

The thugs also stole their batterie., cell phones and maybe some more that they forgot to mention.
When the thugs left, the couple fled into the water, knowing that Mexicans don’t like water. When the men stayed away, they emerged from the water and fled into the hills at the other side of the highway.

Next morning early they came for help at La Perla and we took them in, we as in 3 camps of people. We just like to warn people not to park and camp by themselves. 

Cappi Schneider.

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April 4, 2011
Please help me with any information that you might have regarding the couple, I am the worried parent and have not heard from them since the 1st. I am flying to California tomorrow and do not know what to do. I would greatly appreciate any information. Did they go to the police? Is there a number that I can call for police?

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April 8, 2011
Maybe you’ve heard already. The young couple arrived home in the wee hours Tuesday morning. The young woman works for my husband and I. She’s come to mean a lot to me. I just wanted to add my appreciation for your help and support in getting them back home safely!


Two Murdered In Vehicle Line Waiting To Cross Into US At San Ysidro

Two men waiting in the vehicle line  to cross into the US at 2:40 AM this morning were murdered when a man approached and fired five 9mm bullets at them. The men, Sergio Salcido Luna,  25 years old, and Kevin Joel Romero, 28, were in a white pick-up.

Link to article in Spanish.

Later news says the two victims were Americans and driving a company pick-up with a sign which said West Coast Beverage Manufacturing, where they both worked.

Link to El Mexicano in Spanish.