The Tequila Files is taking a break over the next two months, as I’m going travelling and then spending some time at home with my friends and family. Upon returning to Guadalajara in early July I aim to continue running this blog and also hope to explore some new opportunities.
Once again, thanks to everyone for reading.
Hasta la proxima,
The Pacific resort has long catered to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) visitors, but Gerard believes this sector was “neglected” due to “political posturing” by the previous municipal administration headed by Eduardo Gonzalez Resendiz of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
According to a study by Out Now Global, in 2011, Vallarta was the favored destination of 24 percent of LGBT tourists from the United States, who number around 15 million people each year. But last year this figure dropped to just 14 percent, below Mexico City – the only place in the country to have legalized same-sex marriage – which drew 17 percent of LGBT tourists, and the mega-resort of Cancun, which drew 25 percent.
With Gonzalez having been replaced as mayor by Ramon Guerrero Martinez of the more liberal Citizen’s Movement, Gerard hopes Vallarta can now win back its LGBT crown. His office has begun to meet with travel agencies in Vallarta to work on specialist packages and promote a more gay-friendly environment.
The LGBT sector is more important than ever to Vallarta, because of the recent drop in cruise ship tourism, Gerard said. Some 300 cruise ships docked in Vallarta in 2008, but this had fallen by half to 152 in 2012 and this year just 80 ships are expected to visit the resort. This trend is part of a wider decline in cruise ship tourism along the Pacific coast, with Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan also suffering due to the global economic crisis and safety concerns specific to Mexico.
“Virtual kidnappings” have become increasingly common in Mexico in recent years, with con men tricking victims into thinking that a family member has been abducted.
The daughter of a high-ranking former state official was recently targeted in this manner, Spanish-language daily Mural reported this week.
Having threatened the girl over the phone, the criminals scared her into checking into a local hotel and then called her parents saying she had been kidnapped. Fortunately, the girl’s father was familiar with such scams. He soon saw through the ruse and managed to locate his daughter and bring her home with no ransom having been paid.
In other cases, criminals have been known to steal a subject’s phone and use it to call one of their family members, claiming that their loved one has been kidnapped. They will then threaten to kill the supposed abductee if a ransom is not paid immediately through Western Union or a similar institution.
With Mexico having experienced a dramatic rise in drug-related violence in recent years, these criminals commonly play on people’s fears by falsely identifying themselves as members of notorious criminal networks such as Los Zetas.
They may also know certain details about their victims’ lives, such as their address, the number of children they have, or the model of car they drive, having abused the wealth of personal information available through online social networks such as Facebook.
Panicked, the victims sometimes play into the criminals’ hands by releasing information that further compromises them, such as other family members’ phone numbers or even their own bank details.
Such stress can lead the victims to lose their sense of reason and act irrationally, as was the case when the sister-in-law of a member of staff at the Guadalajara Reporter was targeted last week.
The woman received a phone call from a man identifying himself as a police officer who warned that she had been identified as a suspect in a criminal investigation. He told her that he could help her but that she must leave the house immediately to avoid being arrested.
The supposed police officer (whose number showed a Tamaulipas area code – a major clue that should have alerted the victim to the scam) told her to turn off her cell phone and buy a new one from a convenience store, on which they proceeded to communicate. He repeatedly told the victim not to hang up, ensuring that she stayed on the line throughout the duration of the ordeal.
The extortionist told her to go to the nearest city, in this case Guadalajara, and check into a hotel. She then made the mistake of telling him she would first go to pick up the kids from school.
Once she had arrived at a hotel in Guadalajara with her two children, the extortionist asked for her husband’s cell phone number, purportedly so that he could call and reassure him that she was okay. Of course, upon calling the husband, the extortionist told him that his wife and kids had been kidnapped. He demanded that a deposit of 500,000 pesos be made via the Coppel furniture store in exchange for their release.
Fortunately, the mother, who had finally begun to suspect the ruse, advised one of her children to text their uncle explaining their situation. This led to a realization of what had taken place and the victims left the hotel and later made a denouncement with the relevant authorities.
These scams may often be rumbled because they are reliant upon on a certain amount of guesswork, plus naivety on the part of the victim, but there is little if any risk involved on the part of the “kidnappers,” who are often located hundreds of miles away from those they are calling. They can make many extortion attempts every day, and with the large sums of money involved they only need the occasional success to make this practice worth their while.
In order to minimize the risk of virtual kidnappings, you should not answer calls from unknown or withheld numbers. If threatened, the best form of response is often to simply hang up and then attempt to contact the supposed victim of the kidnapping. Have the phone number of family members’ schools or workplaces noted down in case you cannot contact them via cell phone.
If you fear that the kidnapping is real then demand proof of life over the telephone. Asking to speak to the abductee will not increase the risk to them because genuine kidnappers know that they must prove their victim is alive in order to receive a ransom.
When on the phone, do not provide personal information or family members’ phone numbers to anyone – even if you think you recognize their voice. Do not leave your name or surname on your answering machine and, if possible, protect your cell phone with a password so that virtual kidnappers cannot use it to contact your friends or family members if it is lost or stolen.
To report a real or virtual kidnapping, call the Jalisco Prosecutor General’s Office on 3837-6000 or go in person to the Fiscalia Central at Calle 14, no. 2567, in Guadalajara’s Zona Industrial.
On Saturday night, Tapatio boxer Saul “Canelo” Alvarez defeated the previously unbeaten WBA super welterweight champion Austin Trout in San Antonio, Texas. Alvarez, who now has a second belt to go with his WBC light middleweight champion title, won by a unanimous decision after lasting 12 rounds with Trout.
Throughout his career, Alvarez has faced some criticism for not taking on tougher opponents, but after the fight he repeated his demand for a showdown with Floyd Mayweather later this year.
On the other side of the world, Formula One racer Sergio “Checo” Perez finished sixth in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, his best result since moving from team Sauber to McLaren ahead of the 2013 season. Perez’s strong performance was marred by one moment of controversy, when he hit the back of his British teammate Jenson Button’s car and then banged wheels with him, leading Button to urge, “calm him down, will you?” on the team radio.
Perez now has ten championship points and sits 11th in the standings. His compatriot and replacement at Sauber, Esteban Gutierrez from Monterrey, has yet to win a point.
Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, Scotland, three of the four Tapatio divers representing Mexico at the 2013 World Diving Series came home with medals. Ivan Garcia and German Sanchez came third in the ten-meter synchronized diving on Friday, while Garcia and Alejandra Orozco also won bronze medals in the individual ten-meter contests on Sunday.
To round the weekend off in style, local soccer star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez won his second English Premier League title in three years with Manchester United on Monday.
United beat Aston Villa 3-0 to reclaim the title from rivals Manchester City with four games to spare. Hernandez was an unused substitute on the night, but despite a lack of opportunities this term he has still notched an impressive tally of 16 goals from 25 appearances in all competitions – 11 of which came as a substitute.
Hernandez also won the Premier League in his first season after moving to Manchester from Chivas de Guadalajara in 2010.
On Wednesday the state Prosecutor General’s Office ordered Alvarez’s arrest for allegedly attacking fellow boxer Ulises “Archie” Solis in October 2011. Solis claimed that Alvarez accused him of involvement with his girlfriend and then attacked him at a Guadalajara training facility, leaving him hospitalized with a broken jaw and a cracked tooth.
Alvarez denied the allegation at the time, claiming it was his brother Juan Ramon Alvarez who attacked Solis. A warrant has also been issued for the brother, who stands accused of supplying false information to the police.
This is not the first time that members of Alvarez’s family have been in trouble with the law. Another of the boxer’s brothers, Victor Manuel Alvarez Barragan, is wanted for the alleged murder of Luis Enrique Gama Partida at a party in the family’s home town of Juanacatlan, just outside Guadalajara, last November.
Alvarez is currently in Texas preparing to fight U.S. boxer Austin Trout before over 30,000 fans in San Antonio’s Alamadome on Saturday night. The case will not disrupt the fight but it will come as an unwanted distraction as Alvarez prepares for one of the toughest bouts of his career to date.
Both boxers are undefeated, with Alvarez putting his WBC light middleweight champion title on the line and Trout reciprocating with his WBA super welterweight champion belt.
No one was hurt in the attack, which occurred at around 3.30 a.m. and caused only minor damage to the exterior of the property. It was not reported until 6.30 a.m., when security guards noticed the damage.
Local authorities said one of the blasts was caused by a fragmentation grenade and the other by a small homemade explosive device. The first device exploded in the parking lot on Avenida Lopez Mateos and seconds later the second hit the building’s main entrance on Avenida Mariano Otero, leaving a hole in the door about two centimeters deep.
Mural posted footage from surveillance cameras on its website, showing an assailant running up to the building and throwing a device that explodes against the wall. No arrests have been made and the motive for the attack has yet to be determined.
Governor Aristoteles Sandoval told Mural that the Prosecutor General’s office is following several lines of investigation. Sandoval promised that his government would defend freedom of expression and would not allow criminals to intimidate the press.
Mural, which is part of the Reforma Group, said this was the first attack against it since its foundation 14 years ago. However, other Reforma newspapers have been targeted, such as El Norte de Monterrey, which has been attacked six times since 2010.
Drug gangs frequently seek to exert pressure on the press and Mexico is now considered one of world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, with the National Human Rights Commission (CDNH) reporting in December that 82 journalists have been murdered and 18 others have been reported missing since 2005.
The Siglo de Torreon newspaper in Coahuila has been the worst hit this year, suffering three separate attacks in February alone. On February 8, five workers were kidnapped but later released, while on February 25 a group of armed men attacked federal agents who were guarding the newspaper’s offices. A third, fatal attack occurred two days later when assailants opened fire on the building, leaving one worker dead and two more injured.
Elsewhere, the director of a digital journal in the border town of Ojinaga, Chihuahua was shot 18 times at a taco stand where he had stopped on his way to work on March 3. Three days later, the offices of Chihuahua’s Diaro de Juarez and Canal 44 were also attacked.
Most recently, several journalists in Veracruz have complained of threats against them. Mexican weekly Proceso alleged this week that Jorge Carrasco, one of its reporters in Veracruz, is the victim of an intimidation campaign by elements of the state government. Carrasco believes he is being targeted because he wrote extensively about the death of his colleague Regina Martinez, who Proceso argue may have been killed last year as a result of criticizing Veracruz officials.
Also in Veracruz, CNN Mexico reported last month that a female reporter has been living in the offices of Notiver newspaper for the last three years since suffering three acts of aggression against herself and her family.
Amnesty International condemns attack
In response to the attack on Mural’s Guadalajara offices, Amnesty International released a statement affirming that such actions “are intended to intimidate and influence media coverage.” Amnesty called on the authorities “to ensure that effective and impartial investigations are conducted, that the results of these investigations are made public and that those responsible for this aggression are held accountable.”
Amnesty also called on state and federal authorities to ensure that journalists can work in safety, without fear of reprisals. Noting that Mexico passed a law to protect journalists and human rights observers last year, Amnesty urged any states that have not yet taken action to implement the law to do so without delay.