Armed men abducted 10 to 12 presumed members of a crime gang who appeared to be celebrating at an upscale restaurant in the popular Mexican beach resort city of Puerto Vallarta, authorities said Monday.
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Jalisco state prosecutor Eduardo Almaguer said at a news conference that preliminary results of the investigation indicated that all involved – kidnappers and kidnapped – were members of criminal organizations.
“They were not tourists or residents who work in legal activities,” Almaguer said. “They were people tied to a criminal group we can very clearly presume.”
He said authorities believe they know which groups were involved, but declined to name them.
The Jalisco New Generation cartel has become the dominant criminal force in the state. It has battled the powerful Sinaloa cartel for supremacy in other parts of the country, such as Baja California Sur.
Almaguer said two SUVs carrying five gunmen arrived around 1 a.m. at La Leche restaurant on the city’s main boulevard, which runs through the hotel zone between the old beach city and the airport.
Witnesses reported that four women in the targeted group were not taken by the gunmen, he said. He said authorities were looking for those women.
All of those abducted were from the western states of Sinaloa, Nayarit and Jalisco, Almaguer said.
He said some of those abducted had been vacationing in Puerto Vallarta for a week and authorities found lots of drinks and luxury items inside the restaurant. Five vehicles were abandoned at the restaurant, among them one with Jalisco license plates, but a false registration.
“Obviously, those who acted (the kidnappers) – we presume with the information we have – also belonged to a criminal group that acted against members of another criminal group they located here in Puerto Vallarta,” Almaguer said.
Mexico City-based security analyst Alejandro Hope said that without knowing who was taken, it was impossible to say what the fallout could be.
He recalled some violence last year in Puerto Vallarta but said the city had been quiet recently. He added that while Jalisco New Generation controls the area, it would be possible for another group to enter the city.
Hope also called it odd that a group of alleged cartel members would be taken without a shot being fired.
“It’s a bit surprising that in effect they were drug traffickers but didn’t have any security,” Hope said.
Jalisco Gov. Aristoteles Sandoval said through his official Twitter account that such violence would not be tolerated and that a search was underway for the victims and the kidnappers.
“To the residents and tourists of Puerto Vallarta, I inform you that we have reinforced security so that you can go on as usual,” Sandoval wrote.
The Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board said in a statement that it deeply regretted what it termed an “isolated” incident and stressed that no tourists were involved.
“We do not tolerate violence of any kind,” Agustin Alvarez, general director of the board, said, noting that authorities were stepping up security.