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Mexican residents fear BPM Festival shooting is the start of a drug war in Playa del Carmen

January 17, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Mexican residents fear BPM Festival shooting is the start of a drug war in Playa del Carmen

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While authorities continue investigating what sparked a deadly shooting at an electronic music festival event in Mexico, locals believe it comes in the midst of a growing and increasingly open drug scene in the resort city of Playa Del Carmen, that has long been spared from the violence of Mexico’s drug war.

Playa del Carmen is an affluent region of the country with a vibrant tourism industry and nightlife, which has provided the perfect environment for a flourishing drug market

Now anxieties that the drug war may be creeping into Playa del Carmen, were voiced by residents to El Universal,  during a vigil for the fallen victims on Monday in front of the Blue Parrot.

In the wake of Monday’s deadly shooting, which killed five people and injured 15 others, business leaders in the community who have watched Playa del Carmen grow into one of the most desirable tourist destinations in the Caribbean, are warning authorities to stop the violence or else it could become an everyday reality in the resort town.

A man looks through a fence of the Blue Parrot nightclub after a gunman opened fire early Monday outside the venue, killing several people and injuring others during a BPM electronic music festival (REUTERS/Stringer)

“We asked for more security. Those of us who have been here for many years, more than 25, have seen Playa grow, we accepted people who want to work, to prosper, but people also arrived who do not come with those desires. We need to be looked after, “said one businesswoman.

“This is a sign of what has been happening,” Lenin Amaro stated, who is a politician and local business owner.

“It has reached us,” he added, referring to the country’s drug violence. “We were living in what you could call a bubble.”

Police officers stand outside the Blue Parrot nightclub (REUTERS/Stringer)

Detectives were trying to ascertain a motive for the shooting, but Miguel Angel Pech, the Quintana Roo state Attorney General, said the gunfire began when security tried to stop a man from coming into the club with a gun. Any possible terrorist intent was ruled out.

Three of the fatalities were working the security detail at the 10-day BPM electronic music festival, Pech noted. The gunman responsible for the incident fled and remains at-large.

Governor Carlos Joaquin blamed the shooting on “the intolerance and conflict of interests between two people,” and called it “a personal conflict” between two individuals who exchanged gunfire. He did not reveal what the conflict was.

Candles sit atop banners proclaiming in Spanish “Peace in Playa,” “No more pistols,” and “Enough already of so much corruption and impunity”

Federal authorities have noted that there has been a strong presence of the Zeta cartel in the state for years, especially an hour north in Cancun. In 2010, the Zetas stood accused of firebombing a bar in Cancun that resulted in the deaths of eight victims.

On Monday, officials published a list of those who perished, which included one Canadian, one Italian, two Mexicans, and an 18-year-old girl attending the festival from Denver, Colorado. Fifteen people sustained injuries, including at least two Americans and two Canadians.

The fatal incident is sure to hurt tourism in the region.

A foreign-based promoter who attended another event during the shooting said locals who came to the town for the festival have been frightened by the bloodshed and left for Tulum.

Many parties, which were unrelated to the festival, but sought to take advantage of the many DJs being in town during the coming days have been canceled due to the violence, he indicated.

At a press conference on Monday Cristina Torres Gómez, the mayor of Playa del Carmen announced the city would no longer host the BPM Festival or any similar type of events.

“We want these types of events to go, and will no longer allow not one more,” Torres Gómez said.

One man who was inside the club at the time said he was hiding in a storeroom with four others until the shooting subsided. He described himself as a local and veteran of the club scene and agreed to speak to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because out of fear for his safety.

The man explained how the Zetas cartel manages all drug dealing in the resort city and have dealers usually placed in the restrooms of big clubs. He said drug dealing has become more apparent and open in recent years.

Authorities said 15 victims were wounded in Monday night’s attack at the night club in Playa del Carmen

“In this area, the Zetas that control everything, and that’s why everything is fine,” he added. “Every club here is controlled. In the toilets, everywhere, they control the drugs. They offer you drugs openly. The businessmen, the people, they cannot do anything. (The Zetas) can burn your building.”

He said local law enforcement officials tolerate the dealers as long as they don’t “mess up.”

Because of this, he does not believe that the Zetas were responsible for the gunfire. “The Zetas didn’t do this. Otherwise, they’re going to kill their business,” he noted. “If there are no clients there are no drugs.”

He and others believe that rivals attempted to sell drugs inside the club or perhaps wanted to destroy their business.

Five people were killed in Monday’s mass shooting at beachside club in Playa del Carmen

JammedUp News cited unconfirmed reports from multiple media outlets in Mexico suggesting the purported gunman was a Gulf cartel hitman who had a confrontation of some sort inside the nightclub before opening fire.

The Zetas at one time worked as the paramilitary enforcer wing of the Gulf cartel. In 2010, a split would see the two groups go to war over trafficking routes and have been mortal enemies ever since.

The Los Zetas faction in southern Mexico operates both in conjunction and as an independent faction from the group based in the northern part of the country along the U.S. border.

The brutal cartel still maintains significant power south of the country and is led by Jose Maria Guizar Valencia “Z43” an American citizen born in Tulare, California who is the subject of a $5 million dollar reward by the U.S. government.

Jose Maria Guizar Valencia “Z-43” is an American citizen and leader of Los Zetas in Southern Mexico

El Universal reported images of a narco-message directed at organizers of BPM and rival cartels surfaced in social media which allegedly claimed responsibility for the attack at the Blue Ribbon.

The message was signed by members of the “Old School Zetas,” a Los Zetas faction that has been engulfed in a civil war in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon against a rival group, known as the Cartel Del Noreste.

“This is a demonstration that we are here, and it was because you didn’t get in line, Phillip from BPM”— referring to Phillip Pulitano the Canadian co-founder of the BPM Festival.

“This is the beginning, and we’re going to start cutting off heads of [rival drug cartels].”

Image of this narco message  began to surfaced on social media late Monday

Neither the authorities nor major news sources have verified the authenticity of the images and links to Monday’s attack at the Blue Ribbon.

A local organizer of an electronic music event near Playa Del Carmen told Reuters that armed members of a drug cartel showed up at a  recent party and demanded access to distribute narcotics.

To avoid conflict, the promoter said security granted the cartel members access and also revealed that major Mexican cartels have started operating in Quintana Roo, which he says has deteriorated since the political party controlling the state government was ousted last year in local elections.

The political shift can surely ignite violence as organized crime groups try to realign allegiances with new incoming political leaders.

“They’re all fighting for control of the region; this is an aggression toward any promoter of electronic music in Mexico. It’s a wound for the entire community.”

 

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