Crime and Violence

Cancún airplane hijacking brings national scrutiny to airport security

A Bolivian religious zealot living in Mexico has been indicted on terrorism charges after holding an Aeroméxico plane carrying over 100 passengers hostage on the Mexico City International Airport tarmac September 9. While the man used only a can of juice embellished with wires and mud to resemble a bomb to coerce the crew into submission, the incident has led to calls, including from Public Security Secretary GenarioGarcía Luna, to beef up security at the nation’s airports. The man, 65 year-old José Mar Flores Pereira, has a criminal record in Bolivia for armed robbery among other crimes. Federal police responded to the incident, storming the plane and apprehending Flores Pereira and two others. No shots were fired and nobody was injured.

The incident was unprecedented in Mexico and invoked memories of the 1973 grenade attack on a plane leaving Panama for Beirut and the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airplane by Luis Posada Carriles that left 70 dead. Flores Pereira, however, was not in possession of grenades or a bomb, but a juice can, which he used to hold the plane hostage, demanding to speak with President Calderón about impending disasters for Mexico linked to premonitions he had about the date 9/9/09. The Federal Police responded to the incident by reinforcing inspections of passengers and luggage destined for the United States, Central and South America and the Caribbean. For his part, García Luna has promised a detailed investigation into the security failings at the Cancún airport that allowed Flores Pereira to board the plane with the materials he used to fool the flight crew.

A Mexico City district judge has indicted Flores Pereira on charges of hijacking a plane by use of threats, a crime which under Mexican law carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.


de la Luz González, María. “Rigorizaninspección en el aeropuertocapitalino.” El Universal September 11, 2009.

Castillo, Gustavo. “García Luna critica la seguridad en el aeropuerto de Cancún.” La JornadaSeptember 11, 2009.

Mosso, Rubén. “Formal prisión a pastor boliviano trassecuestro de avión.” MilenioSeptember 14, 2009.

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