Highway blockades by teachers and their supporters in Oaxaca have had the inadvertent effect of creating a power and security vacuum that lets thieves run amok.
This year’s protests by the dissident CNTE teachers’ union and its local Section 22 in Oaxaca held the state in a tight grip with as many as 37 active blockades.
The interruptions to transit also prevented police from patrolling the highways, creating ideal conditions for thieves to trucks, buses and cars.
So says the chairman of the state’s Chamber of Transportation, listing the most dangerous routes as highway 175 to San Pedro Pochutla and Candelaria Loxicha and highway 131 to Santa Catarina Juquila and Sola de Vega, which is well used by pilgrims to the shrine of the Virgin of Juquila.
Other trouble spots include the highways that connect Juchitán de Zaragoza with Salina Cruz, Matías Romero with Ixtepec, Loma Bonita with Tuxtepec and Putla de Guerrero with Pinotepa Nacional, said Miguel Ángel Medina. He said thieves operate by setting up illegal checkpoints, forcing motorists to stop their vehicles. He said the incidents have been taking place during the last four months.
Thieves choose remote and uninhabited areas that also lack public lighting, where neither police nor community surveillance patrols are active.
Detaining buses can net as much as 3,500 pesos (about US $185) from bus drivers and the personal belongings of passengers. The latter goes as well for passenger vehicles.
The situation has forced commercial bus lines to reduce their evening and nighttime routes by 35%, said Medina. Bus lines including Cristóbal Colón, Sur and Oaxaca Pacífico have filed several legal complaints before judicial authorities but the investigations have made little progress.
So far this year, the executive secretariat of the National Public Security System (SNSP) has documented 167 highway robberies in the state of Oaxaca.
It said cargo trucks represent 50% of the victims, private vehicles 10% and buses 6%.
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