They murder 3, set houses on fire and block streets in San Cristóbal

Bloody dispute between gangs of Motonetos

Yesterday, gang members murdered Gerónimo Ruiz, allegedly linked to a rival criminal group, and set three houses on fire, among them one in the Ojo de Ague district, in the municipality of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas. Photo: La Jornada

By: Elio Henríquez, Correspondent
San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas

Yesterday, the city experienced an escalation of violence for eight hours, which started with the murder of Gerónimo Ruiz López, leader of a group of artisans, who are linked with gang members who move about on motorcycles, and are known as Motonetos.

In the northeastern part of the city, there were three houses set on fire, blockades in some streets and the murder of two more people.

The violent acts committed by hooded men, as seen in videos circulated on social networks, caused panic among citizens and merchants who closed their businesses; The authorities decided to suspend classes on Monday in the schools located in the northeast zone and, by Tuesday, the majority were suspended.

Around 11 o’clock in the morning, subjects who were circulating on a motorcycle killed Gerónimo Ruiz López when he was getting off of his vehicle in the La Esperanza district in the city’s northeast.

Gerónimo Ruiz headed one of the groups of artisans who sell in front of the churches of Santo Domingo  and  Caridad, and was a cousin of Narciso Ruiz Sántiz, leader of the Association of Tenants of Traditional Markets of Chiapas (Almetrach).

The crime triggered a wave of violence that began with an exchange of gunfire between followers of the artisan leader and members of an opposing group, in the Ojo Agua neighborhood and the Santa Cruz neighborhood, adjacent to the municipality of Chamula.

In recordings that circulated on the networks, it is observed that several hooded individuals shoot with high-powered firearms towards the hill where the murderers of Gerónimo Ruiz allegedly live.

Subsequently, Ruiz’s followers blocked roads in Ojo de Agua, Peje de Oro and other towns in the northern zone, while firing shots that caused panic among the population.

Although the shooting and burning of homes occurred in the northern part of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, psychosis and anxiety spread to the center of the city, after reports circulated that there were shots fired in the José Castillo Tiélemans public market. Many businesses in that sector closed.

Later, the flames that consumed some houses on the hill, in the upper part of Ojo de Agua, adjacent to Chamula, were observed in the distance.

Dead bodies on the street. Courtesy of Schools for Chiapas.

Official sources reported that José Alfredo Méndez Pérez and Luis Ricardo Gómez Pérez, 24 and 22 years old, respectively, were murdered in the afternoon, both members of the Almetrach, who were riding motorcycles.

Meanwhile, school directors informed parents of the suspension of classes to protect the physical integrity of the students of this colonial population, cataloged as a magical town of great tourist influx and declared in 2015 a Creative City in the category of crafts and popular art by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

Mayor Mariano Díaz Ochoa, who resigned from the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico a few weeks ago, reported that the Mexican Army, the National Guard and the state and municipal police began an operation, with the support of a helicopter, to try to arrest those responsible and those who fired shots into the air.

He said that “a sweep” would be made in neighborhoods in the northern zone to arrest the subjects who activated firearms from their homes or on public roads, “because we cannot allow this type of vandalism; we need the law to be enforced and the killers brought to justice.”

The State Secretariat of Public Security and Citizen Protection reported that “elements of the Inter-institutional Group maintain preventive and dissuasive patrols by land and air in order to strengthen security, peace and order in San Cristóbal de las Casas.”

In a statement, he reported that: “derived from violent acts reported on Monday, federal, state and municipal agents redoubled joint actions in this operation that seeks to inhibit any commission of crime in this municipality.”

Screen shot of homes burning. Photo: Proceso.

He indicated that: “security was strengthened with street tours, a deterrent presence and preventive air patrols, in order to inhibit the commission of any crime and guarantee the peace and tranquility of the population.”

The FGE reported that it initiated an investigation folder against whoever may be responsible for the crime of the aggravated homicide of Gerónimo Ruiz.

“After hearing the news, members of the Investigative Police went to Galilea and Jerusalem streets of the Los Nogales subdivision of San Cristóbal, where a Volkswagen vehicle, type GTI, red, with Chiapas license plates, and which presented bullet impacts, was seen,” he explained.

He maintained that “derived from this fact, armed subjects fired shots into the air in the city’s northeast zone, so elements of the FGE, in coordination with the Army, the National Guard, the State Preventive Police (PEP) and the San Cristóbal police implemented security and dissuasive devices to control the situation and guarantee the tranquility of citizens.”

The institution did not disclose the motives for the crime and only indicated that “it will continue with the corresponding investigations in accordance with homicide protocol, for the purpose of establishing responsibilities and that this deed, as well as no other goes unpunished.”

According to police sources, there are several groups of Scooters in San Cristobal de Las Casas. Narciso and Geronimo allegedly control the so-called Los Torres and Los Quesos. There are several groups linked to politicians and various organizations. Some have formed groups of Scooters with their own members and in some cases “rent” to groups of another gang. “It’s a phenomenon that has grown along with drug dealing, since that illegal branch maintains and hooks new members.”

In this context, human rights organizations denounced attacks against the activist Pascuala López, whose house was burned despite the fact that she has precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

A La Jornada video of the violence is available in Spanish here.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Tuesday, April 18. 2023, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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