Is it true, or is there such a thing as someone having to pay a protection fee to avoid being killed? And is this something that would happen with the Mexican mafia or just drug dealers? “
Some answers and comments:
Yes, it can happen. The common incidents people hear about are when gangs request "protection money" from small business owners in exchange for their business not being trashed or damaged. Usually immigrants or non-English speaking owners are targeted because the gangs know these business owners are usually too afraid to call the police for help. The gangs rule by threats, intimidation and fear, and some small business owners would rather pay a "protection fee" every week or month just to comply with the gangs request. It does happen and basically it is flat out extortion, but the police can not help the owners unless the owners come forward for help. But the fear of retaliation from the gangs often cause the owners to live in fear and just comply with the gangs demands.
It would not surprise me if this was taking place in Mexico, and it would not have to be offered by just drug dealers or mafia gang members. If the current word on the streets of Mexico is that American tourist are naive enough to pay a "protection fee", that gives a green light to just about anyone down there to jump on the bandwagon and try and make a few quick bucks – and common sense prevailing, I can only hope that American tourist don’t place too much faith or trust in someone they don’t know – who asks for money to "protect them"…
If tourist venture into a country where violence prevails and money is coerced or taken for protection – it’s time to find another country to vacation at. Do I know of anyone this has happened to personally? No.
Do I think its likely this is taking place down there? With the current state of affairs taking place in Mexico, I think it is very possible this is taking place.
If you are planning on vacationing south of the border, I would do extensive research on the current tourist conditions. Hope this answers your question.