Armed “scooters” sow terror in San Cristóbal de las Casas


Above Photo: Screen Capture from video posted on Twitter – In the image, at the end of last September, in broad daylight, a group of motonetos (“scooters”) fired off gunshots in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas.

From the Editors

At least five groups popularly known as “scooters” (motonetos) or motor gangsters linked to local drug dealing that, day or night, shoot firearms into the air, have sown terror and anxiety among the inhabitants of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas.

Municipal authorities, organizations and individuals hire these criminal gangs as shock groups to generate conflicts, and to pressure the government so that it frees a detainee or gives impunity to those who are involved in traffic accidents, according to testimonies of the victims.

The competent authorities attribute to members of one of these groups, not identified by name, the murder of the special prosecutor for Indigenous Justice, Gregorio Pérez Gómez, which was perpetrated last August 10.

San Cristóbal de las Casas, located 60 kilometers from the state capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, is considered a jewel of Mexico’s cultural heritage, both for its viceregal buildings and for its ethnic makeup; catalogued as a Magic Town, it is one of the towns in the country most visited by national and foreign tourists.

“The motonetos are the ‘evolution’ of unemployed youth who opt for organized crime and are not only dedicated to robbery, but have been used, everything seems to indicate, by the political class in general as shock groups,” said a researcher, who requested anonymity.

Organized crime

“They are ‘for sale’ to the highest bidder and are not disentangled from the pornography, or ethno-pornography as it’s called now, of the narcoculture. They are called ‘scooters’ because in the beginning they traveled on motor scooters and motorcycles; they are young people who at night get drunk or do drugs and go out to make trouble,” he explained in an interview.

“They operate with radios; they use pistols, rifles and submachine guns. They don’t go out every day to exercise violence, just at determined times or conjunctures. They have not caused an uncontrolled situation, but have sowed psychological terror. We don’t know who might be behind them, but they warn of very strong accomplice networks,” he explained.

No authority has official information about their origin or their structure, but, according to local police sources, there are at least five groups, identified as: Los Torres, Los Vans, ZN, Élite and Los Patos; the latter travel around in taxis, but act like gangs.

They are settled mainly in the city’s northern districts, where many indigenous people live, including former mayors of neighboring municipalities, expelled between 1970 and 1990 from Chamula, allegedly for religious reasons. The sons of several of them are the ones who now make up those groups.

They started to become more visible during the administration of municipal president Marco Antonio Cancino González (2015-2018), of the PVEM.

A resident who asked that his name be protected commented on his experience: “a year ago they hit my and the culprit didn’t want to pay for the damages, alleging that he was not responsible. During a pause in the discussion, he made a telephone call and minutes later about 15 young people on motorcycles arrived to threaten me that if I didn’t pay, they would hit the vehicle. I had nothing left to do but pay 3,000 pesos for the hit from which I was affected.”

Police sources revealed that with the growth of the organizations, several years ago some leaders began to use the motorcycle as a means of transportation for shock groups, for the purpose of blocking roads, protesting in dependencies or exercising pressure on some authority.

“One of those who started to lead the ‘scooters’ is known as El Chicano. The first group that showed itself to be violent stoned a taxi driver to death some years ago in the Primero de Enero district,” in the northern zone, “and little by little they were growing in the type of violence used; they went from stones and blows to carrying firearms and drug dealing; now they are gangs that are rented as sicarios (hit men).”

The informants pointed out that: “all these groups live off crime, may be related to assault, the sale of narcotics and they charge other criminals to defend, for example, the clandestine sale of fuel, or, if an irregular public transport vehicle crashes, shock group arrives to defend it.”

One of the exhibitions of their power happened on the afternoon of last September 28, when they shot firearms into the air, during the funeral procession of one of their compañeros who was murdered by members of a rival gang. For more than half an hour, on the route from the La Hormiga District, where the deceased lived, to the municipal cemetery, they made detonations, without caring that the passersby saw them.

No detainees

Gang members stopped firing their pistols before arriving at the cemetery, due to the presence of the municipal police, but there were no detainees.

Two days before, the night of September 26, when her compañero was murdered in a fight on the Northern Peripheral, gang members fired into the air while they placed a cross in front of the bar in which he was shot. According to official information, on October 10, members of municipal and state police: “repelled an armed attack in the vicinity of the market in the northern zone,” in which members of the gangs participated. The fight originated over the dispute between tenants over the sale of products. A municipal agent was injured by a bullet in the attack; he was taken to a hospital aboard one of the patrol cars.

The agents arrested a man by the name of Raúl N, 24, who his compañeros attempted to get out of a police vehicle by force; they were unable to do so, and therefore he was placed at the disposal of a Public Ministry agent with the Indigenous Justice Prosecutor’s Office, for the crime of damages.

They also confiscated four cars and a motorcycle that were vandalized and that one of the groups participating in the fight sought to burn, and therefore they had to be towed to the Indigenous Justice Prosecutor’s Office.

The researcher stated that gang members move with certain freedom in the city’s northern zone, and when National Guard, state and municipal agents carry out preventive tours, they lower their profile because “the hoodlums are warned about the patrols and the agents only go on specific objectives.”

Black markets proliferate

He highlighted that in many of the districts where they mainly operate, flea markets for the sale of used vehicles and tires have proliferated. “They distribute drugs in the northern market,” he asserted.

Public security personnel –who spoke unofficially– considered that what’s necessary is: “intelligence work to break up these gangs, and an end to their impunity, because that’s what causes the most uncertainty in the population: knowing that whoever denounces will go through the ‘revolving door’ of corruption and revenge will be sought.”

Just on October 15, a man identified as Juan N El Fallo, the alleged leader of one of these groups, was arrested in the Bosques del Pedregal subdivision, also in the city’s northern region. In the operation, when the criminal tried to flee together with a companion in a vehicle, he shot a firearm at the agents; there4 were no injuries.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, October 25, 2021

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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