CANCUN, Mexico – Mexican authorities’ move last month to seize 1,500 safe deposit boxes from a provider of that service has affected citizens from at least 20 countries, some of the company’s clients said during a protest in this southeastern resort city.
The seizures targeting security box rental firm First National Security stem from an organized-crime-related operation launched several weeks ago by the Seido organized-crime unit of the federal Attorney General’s Office.
But after authorities gave notice that all of the confiscated safety deposit boxes would be taken from Cancun to Mexico City, affected First National Security customers launched a sit-in protest opposite a group of soldiers guarding the company’s main entrance.
After several days without providing any official information and amid protesters’ complaints that no search warrant had been issued, the AG’s office issued a bulletin on Oct. 30 stating that a judge had authorized a warrant that allows investigators to open each safe deposit box for “evidence of illegal actions.”
The operation triggered an immediate reaction by First National Security’s clients, who have filed 400 writs of amparo (remedies for the protection of constitutional rights) and more than 100 complaints with state and national human rights commissions.
One protester, Virginia Alvarez Bravo, said Mexican authorities had acted in a heavy-handed manner reminiscent of Venezuela’s leftist government, which has moved in recent months to consolidate power and sideline the opposition.
“They’re really critical of what (President Nicolas) Maduro is doing in Venezuela (yet) ... they’re robbing us in a cynical fashion,” she said.
Alvarez arrived at the protest with the key to her safe deposit box in hand as proof that she had not authorized anyone to open it and that no authority has indicated that she is the subject of any legal proceedings.
“I’m annoyed and very angry to see that the authorities have ... 100 or so soldiers or federal forces here monitoring those of us who have come to recover our things, while there’s killing in the streets. Crime has risen 162 percent this year in Cancun,” she said.