Two public transport vehicles were robbed and then set ablaze in Mexico City due to the failure of workers to pay extortion fees, illustrating how public transport workers and their passengers are on the frontlines of extortion-related violence in Mexico.
On August 1, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum announced that criminal groups were extorting the city’s public transportation workers, Milenio reported.
The same day, the state’s attorney general declared that investigators had identified two criminal groups responsible for extorting, robbing and burning buses, according to Excelsior. The first group is led by Miguel Ángel N, alias "El Monterrey," who reportedly has a history of extorting and killing bus drivers. The second unnamed group is said to attack buses entering the capital from neighboring Mexico State.
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The announcements follow a sharp uptick in violent attacks on public transit in Mexico City. The capital is currently averaging 28 assaults per day on public transportation, nearly triple the amount seen in January of 2018, according to the National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública - SNSP).
An average of 800 attacks took place in May and June this year -- 100 more than during the first four months of 2019.
Transportation workers have demanded the government respond to rising insecurity. On July 16, following the violent deaths of two of their colleagues earlier that month, public transit drivers blocked two major highways, holding signs with messages that read: “Enough, no more blood behind the steering wheel,” and “AMLO, they're killing us.”
InSight Crime Analysis
Although drug trafficking often dominates headlines when it comes to insecurity in Mexico city, extortion is a far more immediate threat to the 6.1 million people estimated to use public transport daily.
Historically considered one of the country’s safer cities, the capital accounted for about a quarter of the 16,543 assaults that occurred on public transport nationally in 2018.
Nearly all of these attacks ended with bloodshed. Of the 4,769 attacks on public transport within the the first six months of 2019, just 30 cases were non-violent.
Yet criminals are rarely punished. Government data shows that 99 out of every 100 assaults on public transport in Mexico goes unreported.
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Authorities seem to recognize this. Government officials recently dedicated 6,600 police officers to protecting public transport, in addition to promising to install security cameras, Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking devices and panic buttons in public transit vehicles.
In the meantime, as robberies become increasingly violent and deadly, some Mexico City transportation providers have temporarily suspended service.
In the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, bus operators have tried similar tactics to protest attacks from street gangs, which have long extorted the public transport sector. But little has come from these efforts. Assaults of buses and taxis continue to take passengers' lives and make drivers’ jobs some of the most dangerous in the world.