The leader of one of Mérida’s largest merchant collectives says that city government officials have been extorting money from small-business owners.
“What they are doing is basically the same thing organized crime does in other parts of the country,” said a group leader, Carlos Ojeda Estrada.
Several small business owners claim that people working for city hall are threatening to revoke their business licenses if they do not pay them off, according to the newspaper Por Esto.
“I set up shop here in the south of town, and these city inspectors showed up and gave me a phone number to call. I was then told that I would have to pay 150 pesos a week to be able to work,” said local merchant Alejandro Cumi Millán.
According to Cumi Millán, payments are made every Monday to a bank account, and if the money does not come through on time inspectors begin to harass him.
Some merchants, such as those in Parque de las Americas, are said to be paying as much as 800 pesos a week, said Ojeda Estrada.
The mayor’s office did not comment on the matter.
In 2019, a group of 150 people working at Merida’s markets staged a protest demanding the firing of Alejandro Pereira, the chief inspector.
According to the protestors, Pereira had been extorting up to 500 pesos a week from each of them in exchange for allowing them to go about their business.
Charges against Pereira were never brought and he remains Mérida’s chief markets inspector.