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On the eve of the start of the Mexican Tennis Open 2022 (one of the most important Acapulco tourist events of the year, set to run from Monday, Feb. 21, through Saturday, Feb. 26), and despite efforts by local and federal authorities to reinforce security measures, at least 80 sales stands were set ablaze Friday, Feb. 18, within the city’s Campesino Tianguis, next to the Central Market.

According to police sources, the fires were lit by members of organized crime groups as punishment for the owners of the stands not paying extortion fees to local cartels.

On Saturday, Feb. 19, the effected merchants blocked at least three important transportation arteries of Acapulco to demand the departure of the Army, which they claimed as only exacerbated their plight with the extortionists. 

The merchants said that operating extortions, express kidnappings and the burning of their businesses are reported every day, but authorities have done little to curb the problem.

The coastal Mexican state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located, is considered one of the worst regions in the country for extortion, with a rate of 6 per 100,000 inhabitants on average having to pay for running their businesses, according to official records. (the figure is probably higher since many businesses do not report the extortions.)

In October of last year, the federal government sent in military forces to try to reduce the incidence of extortion in the resort city.

Immediately afterwards, Mexican National Defense (Sedena) Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval reported that the number of soldiers assigned to Acapulco had increased from 120 to 480, and of National Guardsmen had gone from 590 to 690.

However, the number of reported violent crimes has only continued to increase since then.

In addition to the burning of the stands on Friday, the murder of two young men in the city’s impoverished Colonia Renacimiento was reported on Saturday, Feb. 19.

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