The Baby’O fire and the floor fee

No one is safe in Acapulco. That’s the message left by the Baby’O arson. One of the club’s partners, Eduardo Césarman, ruled out that the fire, which due to the video that circulated was clearly caused, was motivated by the collection of the floor. In this regard, he said: “… we have never had a recent or past problem. The truth is that the Acapulco that we know is peaceful, friendly, it is not an Acapulco where there is crime ”. I have no information about what happened at Baby’O that contradicts what was stated by Césarman. It is likely that the attack on Baby’O, because of the iconic nature of the place and because it occurred almost at the same time as the protest of the new mayor, the morenista Abelina López, was a general warning. Against the incoming authorities, but also against the entire business community of the port.

However, I would not take my finger off the line on the issue of floor collection. Nor does it seem unreasonable to think that, with the attack on Baby’O, what one of the criminal groups that operates in Acapulco (which are several and very aggressive, including The New Company and to Acapulco Independent Cartel), is to pave the way to extort money. I also think it necessary to emphasize that it is somewhat naive to expect that, on the part of the victims of this crime, there will be a complaint of facts, let alone a public recognition. There are several reasons why asking owners to accept that their establishments are operating under threat is equivalent to asking them to shoot themselves in the foot. There are three of the most common reasons.

The first, which alone is sufficient, is the fear of personal reprisals. The second is that clubs, bars and restaurants live off their reputations, especially glossy places like Baby’O. Customers who frequent these types of establishments would think twice before going to a club known to have paid or paid a fee to a criminal group. The third is that reporting also means opening the door to investigating other criminal activities that are frequently tolerated or overlap, such as the sale of coca and other hard drugs. In fact, in the case of nightclubs, extortion and drug dealing often go hand in hand. Criminals sometimes demand a cash payment, sometimes what they seek is to impose exclusively on their dealers, sometimes a combination of both. The silence of the victims is one of the factors that has favored the spread of floor charges throughout the country and in all sectors, but alarmingly in tourist destinations.

I do not think that the floor charge is a problem without a solution. In fact, there is an encouraging precedent. Kidnapping, which in the strict sense is a type of extortion, is no longer a problem of the magnitude of a few years ago. Inegi estimates that in 2013 there were around 132 thousand kidnappings, for 2020 the estimated figure was 83 thousand. A decrease of 37 percent, quite commendable considering the prevailing insecurity context. What made the difference in this crime was the creation in 2014 of a National Anti-Kidnapping Coordination, headed by Renato Sales Heredia, which in turn supported the creation of specialized units in each of the 32 states, with resources – and police personnel and ministerial – dedicated exclusively to identifying, and then combating, new patterns and modalities of kidnapping.

The experience of the National Anti-Kidnapping Coordination offers us a route to follow to face the current crisis of face-to-face extortion. Similarly, floor charges could be lowered (at least in the highest risk sectors, such as tourism) if specialized teams are formed to combat it. However, in order to have results, it is essential to start from the premise that face-to-face extortion and the collection of fees, unlike kidnapping, is, as I already mentioned, an essentially silent crime. According to the National Survey of Victimization and Perception of Public Safety of the Inegi (Envipe), extortion is the third type of crime with the highest incidence. According to this survey, in 2020 there were more than 6 million extortions in the country. However, in the complaints received by the prosecutors of the 32 states, only 8,380 victims are reported. According to these parameters, the black figure is 99.86 percent. Of course, these figures refer to all types of extortion, but they do serve to give us an idea of ​​the degree to which house collection is a primarily invisible phenomenon.

Considering the above, to combat the collection of floor the authorities have to do something that goes against the instincts of any politician: dedicate resources and effort, and proactively investigate, a problem that most of the time does not make noise. Hopefully after what happened at Baby’O (and with the memory of other, more unfortunate cases, where there were human losses), action will be taken on the matter.