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After gunman kills three citizens, a call to action

By Tania Noriz, Editor in Chief

If this is not a desperate cry to the government of this city and the state justice system, then I don’t know what is. What’s next for San Miguel de Allende then? Curfews like in Tijuana? Abandoned houses? Loss of jobs? Investment flight? Economic breakdown? More collateral damage?

When I was hired to work as the main reporter for Atención San Miguel in 2004, the editorial and production processes were hard on the newspaper’s employees: in a single day, on Terrible Tuesday, we published, processed, and sent the issue to print. Depending on the editorial and advertising load, the number of corrections, and whether or not the technology gods favored us that day, we could maybe go home at 10pm. If not, then we knew that we might leave at one or two in the morning. On many occasions, we stayed until 6am, when the town’s early risers were already up and about.

So, for at least three years, every Tuesday, I walked alone from Insurgentes to colonia San Antonio—at any time of the night, or at dawn—without feeling anxious, afraid, or suspicious of bad intentions on the part of those I passed in the street. Coincidentally, those were the days of Luis Alberto Villarreal’s first mayoral administration, when as a reporter I was able to confirm that work was being done in the development of infrastructure, work, and security.

During those times, I remember that citizens believed that high-impact crimes, at least at the local level, were prosecuted to the ultimate degree. The reporters, like me, had total freedom to interview the sub-attorney, or the attorney when necessary, and the police blotters were available to the media every morning. It was also the first era in which Atención published its own police blotter, which in most cases coincided with the ones kept by the Red Cross and Protección Civil, because at that time we could still rely on transparency. There was open communication, and it showed. There was security, and it showed. The patrols and police officers were visible in the streets and colonias and in the substations that began to be built in problematic neighborhoods.

The most famous criminal cases of that period, such as that of the serial rapist and that of the thief/murderer in colonia Mexiquito, were solved within a few months.

Fifteen years and four administrations later, San Miguel’s media exposure and its subsequent growth, has crime, and the authorities’ ability to prevent, combat, and prosecute it, decreased? That is the question with which I am faced every day and to which the authorities always respond with a blunt “no.”

Many years have passed since I felt safe and calm walking alone through the streets of this city, although I must confess that except for the time my house was broken into four years ago, I never felt insecure, not even two months ago, when I could not enter the subdivision where I live because a man had been shot to death at the entrance.

But last Saturday, when it was not even very late at night, my husband and I had just turned off the light to sleep when we were roused by the sound of gunshots outside the house. Then I really did begin to feel fear. After 20 minutes, we heard more gunshots, this time farther away. The next day, the news reports revealed what had happened: a shootout that began in my subdivision had continued onto Avenida de las Americas, ending up in two people killed—a man and a woman. One more victim was later declared dead at the hospital, a 13-year-old girl who was eating at the taco stand nearby. Later it transpired that the death toll was actually four, because a young man was killed in Palmita de Landeta at the same time. There have been no reports about him.

It is clear to me that our city is not going to be the same as it was 15 years ago. It is also clear to me that as far as preventing and combating crime, things are not being done correctly. I do not say this, a 13-year-old girl does, an innocent who died eating tacos for dinner on the wrong night, when criminals were loose without anyone doing anything to stop them.

Authorities’ response as I write this editorial has been virtually zero, merely a short statement in the form of condolences that read as follows: “The municipal administration condemns these unfortunate events and reiterates its collaboration with the authorities of the various levels of government to resolve these events. Likewise, we reiterate our commitment to building the tranquility and civil peace to which all Sanmiguelenses aspire.”

I wonder what this young girl’s parents thought when they read that?

And then, to add insult to injury, there was the councilor who blithely and cynically requested on his Facebook page that people not talk about the distressing things that were happening in our town because it was bad for business. Nice, eh?

Where is the intelligent call for government and society to work together to stop what is happening to our city? To accept the facts and to work on the problem, that is what we demand—the work of all. Municipal government, society: how can we help?


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