Murders in San Miguel Becoming More Frequent, More Public
By Jesus Aguado
In 2019, 10 murders have occurred in San Miguel de Allende, already one-third of the amount of murders that occurred last year, the worst year on record for murders since 2011.
For months, many residents have also been experiencing highway robberies and carjackings, which they insist continue to occur despite police having recently arrested a suspect in the assaults.
In talking with residents this week, Atención found that many feel their city is less safe these days. We also spoke to Secretary of Security Rolando Eugenio Hidalgo Eddy about the status of safety in the town for which he took responsibility four months ago.
Murders in Independencia/San Rafael
Although murders this year have occurred all over the city—in Centro and in outlying neighborhoods and rural communities—a majority of the most recent cases (at least five in January and February) have taken place in the Independencia-San Rafael area.
On February 6, a man was killed on calle Helios in the Olimpo neighborhood. On February 15, a murder took place in San Rafael. On February 21, someone was shot several times while at his business stand at the Mercado Ignacio Ramirez. As we went to press, three more murders occurred on February 28, March 3, and March 4.
The February 28 murder occurred at a BP gas station on the Libramiento Manuel Zavala, next door to Burger King. According to officials, a man who they referred to as “Jorge” was filling his motorcycle with gasoline when an unknown assailant shot him. In a press release, the local government said Jorge had been previously detained in October 2018 for auto parts theft, and in December was incarcerated for possession of a weapon. (The type was not specified.)
Jorge’s aunt is Laura Gonzalez, a MORENA Party city council member. Jorge’s father wrote on his social media site: “With deep pain and sadness, I communicate to family and friends the unfortunate death of Jorge, eldest of my sons. I appreciate respect for his memory. I know perfectly well the son I had, and I am very proud of him and his life. He owed nothing to anyone, in every sense of the word, and was always a good kid, far away from problems.”
In most cases, Atención complies with the spirit of Mexican data privacy laws and does not publish the last names of victims or suspects, even when they are known to us.
On March 3, a man was shot to death in an alley in colonia Atascadero. According to information released that day by authorities, the man worked in a bar and was shot while dropping a woman off there.
On March 4, authorities reported that a man driving a red motorcycle on calle Villanueva in colonia San Rafael was shot dead. According to media outlets, the victim, whom authorities referred to as “David” (and who was known by the nickname “El Salado”) was shot three times.
Personnel movements in the local Public Safety Secretariat
Unofficially in January, Colonel Alfonso Palomeque Fuentes, director of Seguridad Pública (Public Safety), resigned. Rolando Eugenio Hidalgo Eddy confirmed the information later with Atención and said that Erwin Martínez had been appointed as his replacement.
Martínez received his law degree from the Universidad Cuauhtemoc of Aguascalientes. After receiving his accountant’s license, he worked in public accounting for the Universidad Autonoma de Veracruz. Martínez also holds a master’s degree in finances and another in criminal law.
From June 2015 to February 2018, he was sub-secretary of Seguridad Pública of the state of Guerrero. From 2010 to 2014, he was the head of the Sistema Estatal de Información sobre Seguridad Pública (State System of Public Safety Information) for the state of Aguascalientes. In 2009, he was chief auditor of the Auditoria Superior de la Federación (Chief Federal Audit Office). He was also at the forefront of the Subdirección de Investigacion Fiscal, de la Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera del Gobierno del Distrito Federal (Fiscal Research Division of the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Federal District Government).
Martínez was also an assessor for various offices of Secretarios de Seguridad Pública (Public Security Secretaries) in matters of intelligence and political logistics, and has been recognized as a forensic investigator in financial fraud and money laundering.
Regarding the departure of Palomeque Fuentes, Eddy said, “There are internal movements of the office of the Secretary that are shared with the president, and then he authorizes them. Anyone can go, and he was called away on a family matter. He thanked me and said that he had to go.”
Regarding Martinez, he said, “He is a person who has mastery in his profession, and he has worked for the federation, the Seguridad Pública in Guerrero, and in various states, including with me in the Seguridad Pública in Aguascalientes. He is a well-prepared person with a great disposition.”
Restoring safety on the highways
In January and February, various people complained on social media that they had been robbed of their car and their possessions on the road to Querétaro or on the road to Celaya and Guanajuato, all by a man in a red sedan with flashing lights who had followed them and pulled them over. Authorities recently announced that a man had been detained in the cases.
“I want to make something clear,” Eddy said recently in response to questions about the case. “Seguridad Pública takes care of matters within the municipality. The highways are under federal or state jurisdiction, and we can’t interfere in their jurisdictions, but, yes, we are dealing with it. The federal police now monitor the road from San Miguel to Querétaro, and we patrol the San Miguel to Celaya road 24 hours a day as a preventative measure.”
Eddy also said that one should not believe everything said on social media. As an example, he mentioned a report this month about a person who had been run off the highway on the road to Celaya, but in actuality, he said, the man had fallen asleep at the wheel.
“In order not to be reprimanded by the owners of the vehicle or the owner of the merchandise he was carrying, he claimed that someone wanted to assault him—that his van was hit from behind. When we checked, there was no damage. If they want to assault you, they stop you and they do it, but there was no damage to the car. The gossip went to social media, and there was nothing real to it.
“We can’t be asked to explain all the bickering on social networks,” Eddy said. “What we are going to do is help on the road to Celaya and have a presence on the road.”
Eddy also made comments regarding meetings he has been invited to attend in order to talk about safety:
“I will not attend meetings of groups like More Security en San Miguel,” he said. “I don’t have to go to meetings. Whether they invite me or not, I will not go.”
He instead touted the work of Policía de Proximidad Social (Community Policing):
“We began sending out neighborhood patrols on February 15. Many municipalities did not even request it. We have 20 new patrols (for 42 neighborhoods) and 10 motorcycle patrols.”
Do you feel safe in San Miguel?
Atención questioned various San Miguel residents about whether or not they feel safe in San Miguel.
Alex T, a Sanmiguelense, said, “I feel unsafe because the murders and kidnappings are becoming more common in our city. Although one behaves legally, the delinquents shoot at whoever may be close to their target. Another very worrisome problem is the kidnapping of minors. Imagine those of us who have children. The situation in San Miguel is more delicate. It’s disturbing because what if the children go out of the house due to carelessness or, worse yet, if they are snatched from your arms?”
Martha L, an expat from the US, arrived in San Miguel two years ago. “I would like to say that I feel safe all the time, but the truth is that I do not,” she said. “During the day it’s all right. I avoid going out alone at night, and I always take a taxi if I do. I don’t know if things have changed in the last two years or if I know more now than before. In any case, I am constantly alert about my surroundings, and I try to be with other people if possible.
“Crime is an issue, for sure,” she added, “but for me another problem is the street dogs that don’t have leashes. I have a little girl, and I don’t like having to worry about her being attacked by a dog.”
Francisca R, a Sanmiguelense who lives in Centro said, “I feel unsafe. You come out of your house, are in your car, or are walking to work or visiting some place, but you never know what will happen or if you are in danger. Now they are killing people even in Centro. Also you don’t know if you can trust the authorities or not—or if they are in collusion with organized crime.”
J.L., an expat from the US, arrived in San Miguel two years ago and lived on Avenida Independencia but now lives elsewhere.
“I was really feeling safe in the area, but lately people had begun roaming the area,” he said. “There is more traffic and more people who don’t belong there—vandals. Also, there is an increase in the homeless. However, even though we knew that there had been a number of murders, the only reason we left was because our house had four levels and I had problems with my knees.”
S.O., an expat from the US, told Atención that he arrived in San Miguel a month ago and comes from a very safe town. He bought a house in San Rafael.
“My partner and I have been putting this move together for two years, and we were so looking forward to becoming a part of the community,” he said. “We are very troubled and frightened as to what has happened in our neighborhood since we’ve arrived. There have been five murders in our immediate neighborhood in the last month. We are so unsure if we have made the right move.”
A federal matter
The mayoral administration has so far not taken a position on the issue of these murders, simply sending regular information about the incidents that have taken place. However, when Ricardo Villarreal was mayor (2015–2018), he commented on the matter.
“They are killing each other,” he said, referring to the fact that the murders were between members of illicit groups that settled grudges with bullets.
The Congreso del Estado (State Congress) appointed Carlos Zamarripa Aguirre as state fiscal general (Attorney General), who is in charge of crime investigations.
A few days after his appointment at the end of February, the press questioned Zamarripa Aguirre what he was doing about the Santa Rosa cartel, a fuel-theft cartel that has a large presence in some cities and towns in the state of Guanajuato.
“If you are speaking of a cartel, you are speaking of organized crime,” he said. “Organized crime is strictly a federal matter, and not because I say so as attorney general; this is the Constitution of the republic; it is in the law, which states that it falls exclusively within federal domain.”
Below is a table with safety statistics taken from the data published by Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública (National System for Public Safety) and based on reports given to the Ministerio Público (Public Ministry) from January to December. In the case of 2019, the data published only covers January.
|Homicides recorded as with intent||29||28||19||10||21||24||11||29||05|
|Other sexual crimes||20||21||25||64||48||46||40||08|
|Robberies of credit institutions||00||03||02||03||05||02||00||00||00|