Mexico steps up anti-piracy campaign

Justice Dept. launched an operation to fight crime in Tepito

MEXICO CITY — The government has declared its anti-piracy efforts in crime-ridden Tepito, a bleak Mexico City neighborhood that it says is the source of 70% of the country’s bootleg material, “a matter of national import.”

According to law enforcement brass, the 69 blocks that make up Tepito are the primary source of bootleg CDs, DVDs and videos as well as clothing and shoes, leading articles in Mexico’s $150 billion black-market economy. Mexico is the top source of pirated material in the Northern Hemisphere.

In May, the Justice Dept. launched an operation to fight crime in Tepito. On Monday, it announced preliminary results: 1,057 arrests and 453 search warrants, leading to the seizure of more than 1 million pirate compact discs, 49,500 DVDs, 60,000 cassette tapes and three tons of blank CDs and DVDs.

While the majority of perpetrators have been Mexican, the department has arrested Koreans, Chinese, Taiwanese, Guatemalans, Brazilians, Hondurans and Salvadorans. Authorities have identified five principal gangs running piracy, drugs and arms rings in Tepito.

For a half-century, Tepito has been a no man’s land where police fear to tread. In the first three months of this year, 30 execution-style killings were reported in the barrio, which is just blocks from Mexico City’s revitalized center.

Previous attempts to combat piracy in Tepito have focused on police and military raids. New plan calls for a long-term federal police presence as well as financial incentives to encourage local merchants to stop selling black market goods.

“We know that we can’t resolve what was made over decades in just three or six months,” assistant attorney general Gilberto Higuera Bernal said, “but we also know that this is the way to go.”

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