Puerto Vallarta Damaged More by Fear Mongering and Rumors

The events that unfolded yesterday in Puerto Vallarta read like a horrifying attack on the city of Puerto Vallarta, and even the state of Jalisco, however the reality of the situation was less dire. This is not to downplay the significance of the attacks suspected to be carried out by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, but yet an attempt to put the events in perspective.

On May 1, while Labor Day was being celebrated in Puerto Vallarta, a call to authorities at 11 AM reported a burning gas station in the city. Upon arriving, authorities learned that employees at the gas station were warned by armed gunmen to get out of the way of danger and told them they were going to burn the station. This same scene played out at 5 gas stations and 3 banks in Puerto Vallarta all without injury or death.

The total time of the events spanned less than an hour, but the rumors and fear mongering carried on for much of the day into late afternoon. Reports of gunshots on the Malecón, Plaza Caracol, and a local hotel were all made and all locations were stormed by special units only to learn the reports were false and that people in all three locations were going about life as normal. Even though the reports of such activity were false, they were quickly distributed through social media as reality and caused fear among many, proving Social Media is not a reliable source for news.

The airport, bus stations, and highways were temporarily closed until authorities could sweep the locations and bring in extra security to maintain ‘Code Red’ security during the events. This would also allow significant police and military presence to monitor people attempting to leave the city that might have been involved in the incidents. This is standard protocol when a municipality is put into “Code Red” status for security purposes.

There were also reports, even by the US Consultant office in Guadalajara, that the city of Puerto Vallarta was on lockdown and all residents were ordered to remain indoors. While authorities did ask residents to stay home if possible, there was never a legal mandate given, otherwise hundreds or even thousands of people outside would have been arrested and businesses would have been forced closed by authorities, events that never happened in the city. The US Government announcement went beyond the actual events happening on the ground, perhaps by misinformation, which seemed to be the bulk of available information.

Many businesses chose to close in Puerto Vallarta because of the national holiday, not because of the events of the day. In Mexico you must pay your employees 3X their wages if you wish for them to work on a national holiday, that is my understanding of the law, so many businesses do close on holidays anyway.

Early calls by authorities asking people to stay home were the right calls while they assessed the situation and concluded the danger had passed. Nothing less would be expected in any other place around the world.

As horrifying as the thought is about yesterday’s attacks, there is also a reality that should offer some peace of mind. These attacks were carried out in Puerto Vallarta by six men in two pickup trucks with their weapons being a dozen bottles with gasoline. The attacks were armature and the weapons of choice were the lowest level of engineering possible. The attackers also warned people to get out of harm’s way before they started their fires, an indication that there was a desire to keep people safe even by the attackers. The general public was never at risk, and it seemed that was the objective of the attackers launching their plans at closed businesses. The events were a clear sign to authorities that the cartel has the ability to organize and respond quickly to the government crackdown on their organization.

People who actually were in the city can testify to the rapid response of local and federal police, along with the military. The teams were well trained and acted with precision, we must give kudos to these men and women for their work yesterday.

Adding to the confusion and rumors was the city’s official statement released at 8 PM. The statement did not mention anything about the incidents in Puerto Vallarta, simply referring to incidents in the state and around the country. The city report also clearly stated that no activities have been canceled for the weekend and the city is confident that Puerto Vallarta is safe and moving forward. The report even encouraged people to attend Saturday’s Bugambilia Festival, which is mostly sponsored by the city, however moments later the Festival announced they were cancelling all planned activities, sending the wrong message to the rest of the world.

Today, the day after these attacks, there were more fear mongering. Including the burning of a cremeria being reported as cartel related, however the State Attorney denies that and is treating the case as vandalism. A false bomb threat was reported for nightclub Strana, and a car overheated on the GDL-Colima highway but was reported as a cartel activity. One news organization reported 3 more gas station fire on Saturday in Puerto Vallarta, which is proven to be untrue.

I stand by my personal opinion and my publication’s statement that Puerto Vallarta is safe, but that is an easier statement to make when living here and understanding the daily reality outside of a single snapshot of an hour in our day yesterday. Already our social media and website has seen many would be tourists suggest they are rethinking Puerto Vallarta as their vacation destination, even one couple going as far as canceling their plans to retire in the city after yesterday

The cartels have an interest in keeping the main economy running in Mexico, tourism. Tourists are typically not the target for violent crime in Mexico, and the government goes to great lengths to keep the millions of tourists that travel to Mexico safe each year. Even a once strong tourist destination that has since fallen, Acapulco, rarely saw cartel violence, it was violence in the state that sealed Acapulco’s fate late last year.

The city of Puerto Vallarta was pushed into a tipping point yesterday, one they had unsuccessfully wished away and a point that was inevitable for years. The question isn’t the safety of Puerto Vallarta, but yet the reputation of Puerto Vallarta. Yesterday would have been a prime time to hurt people if that was the objective, but instead the attackers seemed to want to keep people safe. That action certainly does not nominate the attackers for sainthood, however it is an indication that they are not seeking violence in their ranks. The city needs to study the ways Acapulco handled the media pressure of uncontrollable events in their state, and do the exact opposite of Acapulco.

Events similar to those that happened in Puerto Vallarta took place in 19 other municipalities in the state of Jalisco, and by admission the executed plan statewide was spectacular for a cartel, but these opinions only address the events that took place in Puerto Vallarta.

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These are the opinions of Vallarta Daily founder, Ian Hayden Parker. Ian occasionally writes a personal column on Vallarta Daily named “Ian-Sanity” providing a personal opinion on trending news topics in Puerto Vallarta.

41 Responses
  1. Harry Grimm

    We are from Vancouver and have been living in PV full time for over 5 years along with our extend family that include wonderful grandkids that attend school down here, and a brother and his wife. It is incredible reading the writings by many who are not even commenting from down here, but seem to have still made some very educated and concerned conclusions!! It is like the kettle calling the pot black and just incredible! I think, if they read their local newspapers, they would be surprised at how unsafe their own community is. Ever heard of Ferguson, MI, USA recently, or Baltimore, MD, USA and that list could fill this page. How about Vancouver, BC, Canada and the Stanley Cup riots a few years ago because they lost a hockey game, or the drug wars currently going on in the Vancouver area lower mainland, or what is happening in Toronto with their problems, but somehow PV is unsafe, get real! Take those rose colored sunglasses off and look at PV through a real pair of sunglasses and it just might surprise you what PV has to offer, unless you are just interested in trashing Mexico and PV in particular. In that case, guard those well documented opinions, and please stay in your perfect community – we are not perfect in PV but we have found a most enjoyable quality of life with the local people and expats that would be very hard to duplicate in USA or Canada!!

  2. mnmccoy

    I really love PV and am very disappointed by the events taking place there. I’m sorry but when the cartel kills 16 police officers – I don’t think I am being ignorant. Also, shooting down the helicopter and killing 6 soldiers and an innocent bystander – I note you don’t comment on that in your article. You are referring to a single day without taking into account the previous events and events yet to come. I hardly think we are ignorant. You are not a responsible “journalist’ and must be threatened by the writing that is on the wall. I have friends who have homes there and know they feel the same way. There are plenty of other locations to spend your vacation dollars without fear. You in no way can guarantee anyone that they would be safe in PV so quit sugar coating it. Call a spade a spade and be honest.

    1. This is an opinion piece about the events in Puerto Vallarta. The helicopter event did not happen in the city, in fact it was about 10 hours outside of the city. However this is an opinion piece about PV, take a look in the news section for NEWS about all the events, including the helicopter. Honest reporting here. Opinions are opinions and should never be taken as news.

    2. Justin Loman

      There is so much wrong with your comment I don’t know where to begin. Responsible journalists should report on events that might happen in the future without any facts and report completely on speculation? You are a FOX news fan, right? Then you condemn someone saying they cannot guarantee 100% safety in Vallarta (which I never read that in this column), yet you want people to believe your guarantee of the opposite. One thing that the internet has exposed is the boundless ignorance of mankind.

      1. mnmccoy

        I am not even going to respond to some idiot comment like this. BTW… I am not an American so no I don’t watch Fox. I leave that to idiots like you
        *Maureen *

  3. Dave

    My wife and I have cancelled our planned vacation and future vacations in the area due to all of the violence.

    1. Peter Hardy

      Violence? Did you not read this artical? No one died no one was hurt This is the very thing he was talking about. Ignorance in the face of truth.

        1. Peter Hardy

          The Canadian governments reaction is what this whole article is talking about. I am a Canadian living in PV for 14 years, I will not tell you how safe I and 1000’s of other Canadians feel here because reality is of little to no importance to you and those whom are like minded. OUR governments reaction to the May 1st attack was simply small minded and lacking evidence. No one died, no one was hurt, no threats were made towards the general public or tourists for that matter… Tourists were sitting on the beach, going on tours and eating in restaurants on May 1,2,3,4…etc. nothing changed here for either locals or tourists, the only ones who were afraid were those who were not here.
          It is better to keep quiet and be thought a fool then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

  4. Palacio Cesar

    People gets hurt in “wars” like this, with or with out the “intent to hurt” somebody. Even the writer of this note is hurting already. To invite people to ignore all the warnings until something “bad” happens is stupid and ignorant. Violence is “off leash” in Mexico and nobody can say when it will stop. Yes, all of Mexico.!
    People who has business in the areas of Pto Vallarta or in Lake Chapala Area and Guadalajara, live in denial, refusing to admit that violence has been brought to their doorsteps.

  5. a view from street level

    this has been coming for years as pv has been a protected site because of the tourist trade and the dollars it pumps in, but not so now with what happened on may 1st and the chief of police having a grenade thrown at her and a few murders they keep most of it out of the papers in pv but if you read the guadalajara papers you can find what is really happening in pv. it is only going to get worse

  6. Ian Hayden Parker

    No reason to have butt-hurt over someone’s opinion. This is not a journalistic piece, just a plain-spoken opinion. Many of our readers are English-spoken as a second language and rumors fly wildly within the Mexican community because they live in a culture where it’s important to believe the opposite of what the media or government tells them. I think it is important for those people to understand what was factual about the day and what was hysteria, and to do so in easy to understand terms. However if you can elaborate on what isn’t fact based that could be helpful, unless your comment was more of a personal attack than something useful. You took the time to read my thoughts and even comment, so you felt like it was worth your time. I am honored for that and wish you the best! Thanks for the feedback.

    1. Peter Hardy

      Your handling of this and other attacks upon your opinion are well played. Your choice of words are well thought out. Your sarcasm is well delivered yet well shrouded in compliments. Congrats.

  7. Lisa Korvin

    Ok, we have now seen the relatively benign actions of the New Generation cartel. What are the Zetas going to do to prove that the territory is theirs? Something more aggressive to be sure. The idea that this is not something different for Puerto Vallarta is naive. This is completely unpresidented and a strong indication that more and worse is to come. This is the start of a turf war…dig in.

    1. Ian Hayden Parker

      The Zetas have been dismantled for a while and they operated on the east coast. Most of their members and leaders have been captured or killed over the last five years.

      This has nothing to do with turf wars, with Vallarta being locked between sea and mountains with only one highway in and out, it isn’t of interest for a turf war. It serves zero purpose for distribution. There are hardly any turf wars any longer in Mexico, turf has mostly been determined. There are fights for passage into the US at the border, and some violence at state borders as cartels need to pass through multiple states and through other turfs.

      What happened Friday was a response to the Federal Government launching an operation against New Generation at 7 AM Friday in GDL. It is almost certain that there will always be retaliation whenever the Feds go after a cartel leader. Vallarta is a good place to flex their muscles because it can do major economic damage, but there is zero chance of a turf war in a place that serves no logistical advantage to distribution.

  8. Peter Hardy

    Thank you Ian, this is my feeling as well and I am glad you wrote this. Well written. As well I do not believe the Cremaria was a part of the main attack. Unless the owner is somehow conected to another cartel or openly denounced the cartel, I do not see the CJNG attacking one small business exclusively. I call it an inside job, but I have zero evidence.

    1. Ian Hayden Parker

      Thank you. We have actually just updated the story about the Cremaria. It is a very confusing one with many different versions. Authorities say the family has refused to make a comment or file charges, but the cremaria was actually owned by the Mayor of a city in Michoacan, which is the state where the CJNG’s main rivals are (or fragments now). Authorities say one person did this, but other media who says they have a statment from the family says three people locked the family in an office. It sounds more like a fight between the mayor and some cartel that is being covered up by the owner of the business out of fear or hiding whatever ties are between him and cartel activity. Not pressing charges against people who burn down your 20 year old business and lock your family in an office and terrorize them is a bit odd. In either event, it wasn’t random acts of violence.

  9. Paula Jensen

    What if one or all of the gas stations had exploded, killing people and blowing several city blocks to bits and pieces? Making “Fear Mongering” the catchy part of the title is more sensationalist than the articles covering the events that REALLY occurred. Puerto Vallarta, while generally speaking is safer than most U.S Cities, has become more violent over the last couple of years. The cartels are HERE, make no mistake. Just in January the media covered up the incident at Plaza Caracol at 4am, when armed perpetrators drove a full size pickup truck through one of the entrances and took out the Banorte ATM. Shots were fired, no one was hurt but the Casino upstairs was open, and again, someone could´ve been hurt or worse. While reporting needs to be done responsibly, the rose colored glasses approach is WRONG and unethical. The local expat business owners are more worried about keeping everything hush hush than the locals. While entertaining, your site, including other English language website/newspaper in PV, never reports any REAL unbiased local news that may upset the proverbial applecart. Journalism is reporting facts, NOT opinions nor reporting only what serves you or your advertisers.

    1. This is an opinon, that is why it is under ‘columnists’ heading. As most media has opinion sections where people freely write about their opinions. One should never confuse opinions with facts, which is why this is separate from our news. Feel free to read our news section for facts about what happened on Friday. I think we are the only English publication in the area reporting these stories while the rest are reporting what special menus are happening in the area. It is popular knowledge that we are not about protecting the tourism industry or businesses, we are about reporting news which has its own challenges in Mexico, and in Puerto Vallarta it is even more difficult because the city covers up much of the news so it cannot be reported. However, to that end we try our best, and sometimes fail, but at least in the end we are making a real effort to keep people informed about what is happening in our city. Thank you.

      1. Justin Loman

        Hands down PVDN is the best news in the area serving expats. Don’t fall into this discussion with people who clearly have no idea what they are talking about. The risk one takes for being at the top of their game is that they are also open to more criticism. Don’t try to convert haters into liking you, you are the top news site in the city because of your approach to news. You cannot please everyone. You guys are only 11 or 12 months old, you are still a little wet behind the ears, but the people of Puerto Vallarta overwhelmingly respect the work you are doing for the people.

    2. And by the way Paula, if we knew about the indecent you are talking about we would have clearly reported that too. We report everything that we know has happened in our city, including all the kidnappings. We also depend a lot on the public to give us news tips, if these things happen in the city and it’s not on our news site click the ‘submit a story’ link at the top of every page and give us what you know so we can be informed and begin investigating. We are certainly not a profit media so my resources are very limited, I don’t have a team of journalists. I have a lot of sleepless nights keeping up with news and I depend on the community to help me stay informed too.

    3. Ian Hayden Parker

      Thank you for your comment Paula. Very much appreciated. I am a little concerned that your comment is full of ‘what if’ remarks while accusing me of not reporting what REALLY occurred. In no why is ‘what if’ speculation ever considered as a real event. Of course this isn’t a report, it is just an opinion about how rumors make things worse. I guess I do not really understand the point of your comment, it sounds like you are critical because we are not speculating what would have been the outcome if the gas stations had exploded or what if someone had fired shots in the January event you mentioned. I am sorry, it isn’t the media’s job to build their stories on ‘what is’, the point is, no gas stations exploded and no one was shot in the January event and for us to take a story and speculate the ‘what if’ would make it fear mongering, as you have just done. Be very careful not to condemn fear mongering in one hand but then contribute to it in the other.

  10. Skyewriter

    You’re wrong that businesses closed only because of the holiday. I was having comida corrida in a small cafe that abruptly closed when someone brought in reports that a fire bomb had exploded in Lans. Numerous other businesses in my neighborhood quickly followed suit. I know people who were in Plaza Caracol, and it was shut down as well. The TRUTH is that many businesses did close in response to the incidents of violence. The RUMOR is they didn’t. Your rumors are as reprehensible as others’ rumors.

    1. No where does this column say ‘businesses closed ONLY because of the holiday’ please do not misquote. The column says MOST businesses that were closed on Friday were closed because of the holidays, and that is true. This column no where says that no businesses closed because of the events.

  11. John Doe

    I have a few thoughts on this. 1. These where terrorist attacks to get their drug lord freed. 2. It worked. So the message they have is if they want to get their way they can blow up a few things. I am not sure how I feel about it. I think its very important to be happy and get back to normal but I also feel that I can not ignore that these guys are operating in the area. No part of what they did was safe.

    It is very naive to think any place is safe the fact now is we have violent drug crime in PV now. Don’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  12. Ken Stobbs

    I have been reading a host of opinions about the recent
    events in Puerto Vallarta. So much of
    the fear generating is based on an unbelievably self-centred opinion of the
    absolute necessity of keeping tourists safe wherever they may wish to travel.
    It can’t be denied that these events took place, but to constantly single out
    Mexican places as unsafe or foolish to venture in to is the height of
    ignorance. Virtually every place in the world today is subject to either
    constant or random violence and horrifying events that defy logic. In fact the trouble that the majority of
    tourists find themselves in, everywhere in the world, is often entirely of
    their own making. People who are
    terrified to venture south of the US /Mexican border are still comfortable
    driving a car elsewhere, blissfully ignorant of the fact that it is the most
    dangerous place anybody can be. They
    think nothing of vising just about anywhere in the US, despite a nation-wide
    infantile attitude towards firearms.
    Canadians are tediously sanctimonious about their ‘polite’ society,
    ignoring the constant property crime and violent assaults that take place in
    every corner of the country. And we
    haven’t even left the continent yet. I
    have no idea why the Mexican people are put in a position of defending public
    safety after an event such as the attacks in Jalisco last week, while seemingly
    every other place, popular or not popular with tourists is given a pass. I haven’t seen the mayors of St. Louis or
    Baltimore pleading with prospective visitors to not change their plans, nor do
    I expect they will see any drop in business this summer. Yet every single time there is a violent
    event in any area that non-Mexicans might be inclined to visit, the entire
    world has to be reassured. Mexico, like
    elsewhere in the world, is going to have to sort out it own problems. Travellers to all places need to stop placing
    their own safety above all others. Mexico
    still remains one of the safest countries in the world to visit, that statistic
    cannot be argued. It would be nice to
    see people look at what they could be missing rather than what they could be
    avoiding by passing on the opportunity to visit. There is infinitely more to experience than
    to avoid in the friendliest country in the world. Anyway, attempting to prolong
    ones life by staying at home only increases the chance that one will die in a
    house fire.

  13. Don Pickens

    Whike Plaza Caracol may not have had gunshots it did have a fire at Lan’s (I won’t be more specific to avoid fearmongering).

    Your article borders on belittling the fact that the events that occurred have never happened in PV before (to my knowledge in 13 years here) and were not just in PV by six men in two pickups but were part of a definitely non-amateur coordinated action across at least three states and about 30 incidents with seven dead. This was in response to a coordinated State operation against “organized crime”. To ignore that, as you’ve done, is really just sticking your head in the sand about what happened (admittedly, a common response). Just talk to anyone from Guadalajara.

    Under-reaction and naivety can be just as dangerous as fear mongering, resulting in people not taking appropriate precautions.

    1. The opinion piece, not article, clearly states that while other events took place around the state, the events being recounted only apply to Puerto Vallarta, where there were not injuries or deaths reported in the city. Ian was also in GDL as he has residence there, he also attended the press conference with the Governor, so we are confident that he is well-informed, and more so than just the average person. We understand the full-scope of the weekend events, feel free to visit our headline news link to see the numerous stories covering the event locally, statewide, and nationally.

    2. Sorry, I meant to address your other concern. The cartel as been active in Vallarta for several years with kidnappings and even the gunning down of the police chief in old town, using a child walking to school as their shield. This is not new to Puerto Vallarta.

      1. Don Pickens

        I’m not trying to be confrontational. But you dismissed that anything happened at Plaza Caracol, that was not one of the five gas stations or three banks. Nor is it accurate to claim these events were caused by a couple of amateur local yocals. Also, while there were no “lockdowns” there were several evacuations of neighborhoods and of Plaza Caracol. As to whether this has happened before, no, there have never been simultaneous attacks designed to create fear synchronized with other cities.

        1. Ian Hayden Parker

          Don, first you should address me, not the news team. Take note that these are my personal opinions. If you want a blow-by-blow account of factual details we have a half dozen stories to satisfy that need, this article is not meant to be an informative news story on the events of the weekend. My opinion piece is about addressing he rumors and false reports of the weekend and how those have a larger impact on our city than the actual events, even as horrifying as the reality was for one hour on Friday. By the way, I never said these were local people nor did I say they were amateur, I said they used amateur methods. Gas filled bottles is what you see at any street riot being done by 12 year old kids, the cartel has more resources than that. I was clear this was cartel and an executed plan across the state, but again, my main focus was to discuss the rumors of the day, not the facts.

  14. Stephanie

    Peter, being informed about events around the world doesn’t qualify as fear mongering. Fear mongering is telling people that the situation is far worse than it, usually for personal gain. An example would be what is commonly believed in the US “everyone is being shot at by the cartel in Mexico so you’d better just stay home”. This article seeks to disprove the fear mongering attempts of others by letting you know the truth: Mexico is just as safe as the US.

    1. Peter

      Yes, Stephanie…. agreed! Completely! But my point is, look at the other coverage on this site. This article is fine, but the fear mongering it references is on this very web site, simply in other articles.

      1. Ian Hayden Parker

        Again, fear mongering is not reporting the truth, no matter how fearful the truth is. Fear mongering is over exaggeration of the truth, or simply false reporting, in an effort to cause fear among people. No stories on this site have false information or are intended to make people fearful. What causes fear is the unknown, people need information to embrace power. Ignoring the story and making information less accessible only causes more fear as people begin to rely on their own deepest fears.

  15. Peter

    But, here in Boston, THIS PAPER is the only place I heard any of this! You are responsible for, and/or participating in, the fear mongering!!

    1. Peter, our news services the people of Puerto Vallarta. People who LIVE here and are here this weekend have been told people were killed on the malecon, shopping centers, and hotels. They were told three gas stations were burnt on Saturday even though there was not. They have claimed a burning business was from the cartel, but the state attorney doubts that through their investigation. A car overheated in the highway and it was reported that it was torched by cartel. People are being told to leave the city and/or cancel their vacations because Puerto Vallarta has fallen into the hands of the cartel. None of this is true, and reporting the truth is never fear mongering, keeping our community informed with facts is our job, and should be the priority of any news. Is the news scary? Yes, to some it is, but does that mean we should not tell the story and try to separate the facts from fiction just because it’s a topic people feel uncomfortable with, no. We wish this wasn’t a reality of our weekend in Puerto Vallarta, but it is, and the media has the obligation to the people to tell them what is happening, clearly, and honestly. Thank you for your comment.

      1. debbie bryan

        I would just like to say that I sincerely appreciate receiving your news daily and that this article really calmed me down as I was quite upset yesterday as were some of my other Canadian and American friends. Most of my Mexican friends do not seem to be affected as much. I live in Nuevo Vallarta for around 7 months of the year and it is nice to receive news that is well written, truthful and understandable. Debbie Bryan

      2. Peter

        I agree…. but please look through the other articles on your site. The fear mongering is being perpetuated by your very co-workers.

        1. Ian Hayden Parker

          Peter, fear mongering is not reporting facts. So if a large snow storm is coming to Boston, the news should not report that because some people might be scared of snow storms? Of course not. With truth comes power. Fear mongering is exaggerating the details or simply making false reports about events that are not happening, which is what much of the local media has been doing. It’s interesting because the comment above yours is suggesting that we are not being fearful enough in our reporting.

  16. Brenda Retzlaff de Rivera

    It is a very well written article and sums up what I believe as well as many others that also live here also believe. My only critique is Plaza CARACOL. (No “e” at the end :)

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