At least 16 people were abducted from a popular restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, although it appears at this time that the victims were not tourists, International Business Times is reporting.
As of this writing, multiple conflicting reports paint a disjointed picture of what happened, but it appears that the kidnapping began at about 1:00 A.M. Monday, local time (2:00 A.M. Eastern Time), according to NBC News. Masked gunmen pulled up to the La Leche restaurant in multiple vehicles, according to Eduardo Almaguer, Attorney General for the Mexican state of Jalisco.
“According to the testimony of eyewitnesses, a number of men arrived in a white Toyota Tacoma pickup truck and a Chevrolet Suburban, and they proceeded to kidnap a group of people in a restaurant.”
Almaguer also confirmed that the kidnapping victims were not tourists, but rather, appeared to be members of a criminal gang that were themselves targets of another criminal gang.
“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.”
— FOX 61 (@FOX61News) August 15, 2016
At least four women who were with the kidnapping victims either managed to escape or were allowed to leave, and authorities are now searching for those women.
In a message posted in Spanish on Twitter, Jalisco Governor Aristoteles Sandoval assured residents and tourists alike that authorities are doing their best to make sure Puerto Vallarta is safe.
“To the residents and tourists of Puerto Vallarta, I inform you that we have reinforced security so that you can go on as usual.”
¡Muchas felicidades! Gracias por demostrar que con voluntad y esfuerzo los jaliscienses somos capaces de todo. pic.twitter.com/fq6OOh7iVX
— Aristóteles Sandoval (@AristotelesSD) August 15, 2016
For years, Mexico has been besieged by violence and criminality, as warring drug cartels carry out kidnappings, executions, robberies, and similar crimes as they vie for control. While Mexican crime is largely targeted at police, journalists, government authorities, and other cartels, tourists are not out of danger: In a warning posted on the State Department’s website, the agency warns American tourists to avoid certain areas of Mexico.
“Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day… Of particular safety concern are casinos, sports books, or other gambling establishments, and adult entertainment establishments. U.S. government personnel are specifically prohibited from patronizing these establishments in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit.”
Jalisco, the state in which Puerto Vallarta is located, is not on that list. And indeed, Puerta Vallarta has largely escaped the kind of crime and violence that have plagued other parts of Mexico. In fact, even though Jalisco has its own cartel – The Jalisco New Generation Cartel has carried out multiple attacks on security – the tourist area of Puerto Vallarta itself has been spared.
RELATED REPORTS BY THE INQUISITR
As The Guardian notes, the Pacific coast city of about 275,000 people was, until around the 1950’s, a mining and fishing community. However, as American tourists discovered the place, its popularity as a tourist destination grew, bringing in jobs and money. Today, Puerto Vallarta is especially popular with gay and lesbian travelers.
This is a developing story. More information about the Puerto Vallarta kidnapping will be provided as it becomes available.
[Image via Shutterstock/Elena Elisseeva]