Friday 13 December 2013

Bus from Bucerias to Tepic held up

A Pacifico bus
On Wednesday, December 11, the Pacifico bus from Bucerias (north of Puerto Vallarta) to Tepic was held up. There were no injuries or arrests.

The bus left Bucerias at 7:15 a.m. without incident. It made it safely past Las Varas, the last stop before Compostela. However, halfway between Las Varas and Compostela two men pulled out guns and proceeded to rob the passengers.

One of the men held a gun at the driver, forcing him to continue on, while the second man went from row to row demanding cell phones and money.

First hand reports indicate that there was a lot of yelling at the rear of the bus. A foreign couple nearer the front were aware of the commotion, but not that a robbery was taking place.

When the second criminal came upon the foreign couple, he jabbed the barrel of a pistol at the foreign man’s forehead, and shouted a one-time demand for a wedding ring, which in the commotion was refused by the woman. The husband was kicked and a phone demanded, (the couple had no phone), but after more yelling the bandit then moved on.

By their own account, the foreign couple says they may have stood their ground simply because everything happened so quickly, and because they had been unaware until the last moment that a robbery was occurring, whereas some of the Mexican passengers in front may have known and, with building anxiety, prepared to give up (or hide) their phones and money.

After about another fifteen minutes the robbers got off. It is likely they had a car waiting for them. The bus then continued to Compostela, where it was met by police, who then took statements from those who had lost possessions.

The foreign couple continued on the same bus to Tepic, and returned again by bus, noting that “statistically there is a small chance of this happening again.”

Bus travel in Mexico is popular and, for the most part, safe. It is common in big bus stations to have metal detectors, and for passengers to be frisked. In years past some routes – such as the night bus south of Acapulco on the Carretera del Pacifico  –  were held up with such regularity one wondered if the police weren’t complicit.

The route from Bucerias to Tepic, however, is not known for problems, with many Mexicans and foreigners alike taking the bus regularly without incident. This bus was the hourly “milk run” that stops at small towns along the way, but was no clunker – it had air conditioning and was showing movies.

Passengers noted that there was no security when boarding the bus, but that it would have been difficult to enforce, given that many pickups were at the side of the road. The main bus station at Tepic does have security, but it is lax, with no frisking or metal detectors.

It seems that the robbers were most interested in cash and cell phones. There was no interest in bank or credit cards, and no effort to pull an “express kidnapping”, where people are taken for quick withdrawal from bank machines.

The emphasis on cell phones may be due to the fact that in Mexico all phones have to be registered with their owners. This makes it more difficult for criminals to “buy and burn” phones  on an as-needed basis.  

There is also the risk that the two men may have been looking to mine the riders’ contact lists in order to perpetrate one of the most common frauds in Mexico, which is to call and say that an individual has been kidnapped when, in fact, they have not. In such "virtual kidnappings" family members, sick with worry (the criminals clearly are in possession of the loved one’s phone, making a kidnap seem plausible), will then sometimes pay out a ransom before it is clear that no kidnap has occurred.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

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