Hotel owners in Mexico say that the federal police owe millions of pesos in unpaid bills, suggesting that the agency may be struggling to complete basic administrative tasks.
The former head of the Hotel Association of Nayarit state told El Universal that the federal police are in debt to some 80 hotels across the country. This includes 30 hotels in Nuevo Leon, one of the most violent states in Mexico, where over 2,000 murders were registered last year. Some of the bills are as high as 4 million pesos (about $310,000), the former Hotel Association head said.
Coahuila-based newspaper Zocalo interviewed four hotel owners who made similar complaints, stating the federal police owed them between 5 and 8 million ($390,000-$620,000).
One hotel owner in a small town in Michoacan state, who said he'd housed some 100 police agents, blamed bureaucracy for the delay. He told Zocalo that the federal police used to pay the bill directly, but then contracted the job to the Institute for Social Security and Services for State Workers (ISSSTE), which in turn contracted it out to another company.
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The government has approved ever-larger budgets for accommodation costs for federal agents over the past few years. This coincides with the surge of federal security forces across the country, ordered by President Felipe Calderon. According to a report released earlier this year by the Secretariat of Public Security (SSP), federal police spending on lodging increased 729 percent in a five-year period, from about 5.7 million pesos (about $440,000) budgeted in 2007, to about 42 million pesos in 2011 (about $3.2 million). With an expansion of this magnitude, it was perhaps inevitable that the federal police's administrative arm would struggle to keep up with hotel payments.
Mexican police stay at hotels because of logistical and safety concerns. Earlier this year in Juarez, the city mandated that all municipal police must begin staying at hotels for their own safety.
As a result, hotels are frequently attacked by criminal organizations looking to target police. A hotel administrator and two police agents died after one such attack in Durango in September.