Translated by Fulano from an article in JornadaBC.
Mazatlán, January 31, 2017 – Yes, it is possible to divide paradise from Hell. Mazatlán authorities did so with a blue line, a stripe in the streets and avenues in important sectors of this city where Mexican and foreign tourists can go of they don’t want to place themselves in danger, including death.
The line starts at the pier, where tourists arrive on cruise ships. It crosses calle Emilio Barragán, it enters the sector called Playa Sur (between the pier and the historic downtown). It continues on avenida Carnaval, crosses bulevar Miguel Alemán, and ends at the steps of Plaza Machado and the Ángela Peralta Theater.
Whether or not one follows this stripe on a bicycle, afoot, in a taxi or in your own automobile could be the difference between finding yourself in the midst of a gunfight, our enjoying the Mazatlán sun, sea breeze, a cold beer at sunset or a coffee at the old seawall.
Mazatlán has gone rotten. Its violence is on a par with Culiacán, the state capital. In the first 30 days of 2017, there have been at least 106 murders in Sinaloa, 40 of them in Mazatlán and the remainder in Culicán and other municipalities.
The government of Quirino Ordaz Coppel began the last day of 2016, and the drug trafficking groups took note. Commander Juan Antinio Murillo, former Mazatlán chief of police and an official with the state attorney general, were shot two of their three bodyguards died.
Another two police officers, among them an operation supervisor with the Culiacán municipal police, were kidnapped on January 27, a police commander had a gunfight with a group of hit men in the capital.
Mazatlán, once a safe and peaceful port, with inhabitants who get up late and were shorts and sandals to work, of early drunkenness and eternal bohemian lifestyle, is sick with crime and violence caused by drug trafficking.
The Beltrán Levya Cartel, presumable in alliance with cells from the Jalisco Nueva Generación, fight to the death with the Sinaloa Cartel for the drug market in the state.
Up to eight murders in one day.
The crime rate in this region has increased since 2016. Rival cells from the Sinaloa Cartel have entered from the border with Nayarit and operate from Escuinapa, El Rosario, Concordia and Mazatlán. The mountainous area in the north of the municipality is a refuge for armed groups.
On one side is Hell, bullets, and nothingness. On the other side are the patrols, the police operations and the tourist guides. Everybody knows, even those selling tourist services and products, especially cruise ship service people, which leaves more income in the local economy.
Taxi drivers, owners and pulmonia drivers, and those offering small boat trips all know the have to follow the blue line.
The same is done with the violence. Little is said about it so as to not affect tourism. “Don’t even think about going to Lázaro,” said a Sinaloa university student to another who is not from Mazatlán. The Lázaro Cárdenas colonia is a couple of kilometers from downtown and and three or four streets from the blue line. There there are drugs, weapons, assaults, robberies and gunfights.
“It was raining bullets,” said the residents to reporters, when talking about what happened on December 2, 2016, when an armed group attacked the residents of Lázaro Cárdenas on calle Teniente Azueta. Three men died and another was wounded when he tried to flee in a motorcycle. So far this year, there have been up to eight murders in a single day in Mazatlán.
Police operations have been fruitless. With the new state government, around 1,800 military police are in the 18 state municipalities and this started in Mazatlán. January 27, 14 men were captured, most of the assailants, drug dealers, vandals and gangsters. Not one of the was a gunman for any of the bands. They, like a good boxer, enter, hit and go.
“The murders are talked about in hushed voices, so as to not affect tourism,” said a restaurant employee when asked about the wave of murders never before seen in Mazatlán, even less so in such a short period of time.
A taxi driver says it is “a problem between the drug people,” but “unfortunately it affects everybody.” He is fearful that once again the cruise lines will blacklist Mazatlán and tourists will stop coming.
When the cruise ships arrive at port, and before getting off the ships, the passengers are warned to follow the blue line. Along the blue line, the tourists come across municipal and state police, until they get to the main plaza or gardens, the cathedral and the market.
Following the line can be all the difference. Deviate from the blue line painted on the streets and sidewalks of the malecón means going into the backyard of this city, the second largest city in Sinaloa, stained with bodies with messages pinned to them, disrupted by the Hellish steps of gunmen from both bands.
For all this, the taxi drivers, tourist service providers and tourists follow the blue line. One has to follow it to remain apart from the Hell which adjoins the precarious and wounded paradise of Mazatlán.