Apatzingán businesses will stop paying taxes due to violent atmosphere

Business leaders group from Tierra Caliente, Michoacán (southeast Mexico), protest against lack of support from central government in the face of violent crisis

Apatzingán residents in a demonstration on Sunday.
Apatzingán residents in a demonstration on Sunday.HECTOR GUERRERO (AFP)

The wave of violence riding through the southern region of Tierra Caliente, Michoacán has caused economic losses of at least 525 million pesos (39 million dollars) according to business leaders. The government package announced does not, local merchants say, cover one-tenth of the damages caused by the security crisis. According to the National Chamber of Commerce (Canaco) office in Apatzingán the local economy is so fragile that half of the affected businesses will never recover.

The federal government announced an aid package in the form of credit for 4.8 million pesos (350,000 dollars) - less than one-tenth of what local merchants say they lost. Business leaders say they will stop paying taxes until law and order returns and the government provides assistance proportional to their losses.

Carlos Alabé, the president of Canaco in Apatzingán, told the press that the aid package would not even cover monthly light bills. Alabé reiterated the merchants claim saying that, if they do not receive more support next month, they will stop paying "municipal, state and federal taxes."

The eight-year violent spree in Michoacán exploded again on January 4 when a vigilante group - civilians who take up arms to fight the cartels - toook over Parácuaro, a municipality 20 kilometers from Apatzingán, the economic heart of the region.

Michoacán has long been a bastion for the Knights Templar. The Knights have ruled over the half million people in Tierra Caliente by subjecting them to extortions, assault, assassinations and a general state of siege.

In the last few years, hitmen have set up roadblocks in order to control cities and intimidate people. Since 2006 the lack of security has led to gas, butane and food shortages. The roadblocks stopped after Secretary of the Interior Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong launched the Michoacán Operation - a mission to restore security in the province - on January 14. Until now.

In response to the progress of vigilante groups, the cartels have tightened their hold on Apatzingán, a city 80,000 people call home. Between January 4 and 12, unidentified men set fire to almost a dozen businesses and threatened to burn down the local market. Outbound bus traffic stopped and local merchants reported 13 million pesos (900,000 dollars) in losses so far this month. Farmers said they could not deliver the crop of the season, limes, to their buyers.

Although the central government’s operation restored some level of calm, the region is not safe. Despite police and military presence, some unidentified persons set fire to a pharmacy on January 15.

Translation: Dyane Jean François

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