Many Tijuana residents took shelter Friday night after burning vehicles appeared across the city in what was suspected to be a coordinated act of organized crime.
At least 19 vehicles, including private and public transport, were set on fire in various towns in the state of Baja California, according to local authorities, and in some cases blocked roads.
Similar vehicle fires were used earlier in the week in the states of Jalisco and Guanajuato to send a cartel message to the Mexican government after several cartel members were detained in a Mexican army operation. It is unclear whether the acts of violence in Tijuana are connected.
The US Consul General in Tijuana advised Americans to seek shelter. Meanwhile, local Mexican officials worked to assure Tijuanenses that government forces would protect them.
“In light of the facts recorded this Friday, I want to express to you that my government is acting to protect the population and to deal with any and all violent events that have occurred,” Baja California Governor Marina del Pilar Avila wrote in Spanish in a social media post.
Hours earlier, Avila announced that some people had been detained in connection with the violence.
“I want to tell you that I will not hold back forces or resources to keep citizens safe and oversee the actions that restore our peace,” her message concluded.
An increased presence of local police and the National Guard was visible on the streets of Tijuana Friday night.
Outside the Estadio Caliente, the soccer stadium where the local Xolos team was finishing a game, fire trucks and the National Guard rushed to put out a fire. As news spread of fears of potentially more violence overnight, many fans opted to leave the game early.
Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero said he would maintain a constant security operation following the day’s events.
In a video posted on social media, she signaled that she was working in coordination with state and federal authorities and that she would deploy “3,000 National Guard soldiers, 2,000 police officers and the entire body of government to protect Tijuana if necessary.” “
In the announcement, in which she appeared accompanied by her security secretary Fernando Sanchez, she attributed the events to organized crime and asked citizens to remain calm.
The U.S. Consul General sent a message that he was aware of reports of fires, blockades and police activity in various cities across the state.
“U.S. Government employees are instructed to shelter in place until further notice,” the announcement on Twitter said.
County Supervisor Nora Vargas retweeted the consulate’s message and encouraged bi-national residents to follow the recommendations of government authorities and “avoid unnecessary travel to allow authorities to do their work and maintain safety.”
Some stores, including the Calimax supermarket chain, closed early as a precaution.
“Our branches are now closed and we ask you again not to leave your homes and take shelter in place,” his Facebook profile posted.
Baja California Autonomous University announced that classes will be canceled Saturday. Tijuana’s cultural center also said it would suspend its activities on Saturday.