Weekend killings in Acapulco highlight Guerrero’s catastrophic murder rate

Southwestern state is locked in spiral of violence between rival drug cartels that is hitting tourism sector

Acapulco, once Mexico’s top tourism resort, is now the country’s murder capital and one of the world’s most violent cities, illustrated all too gruesomely by an eruption of violence that left 10 people dead in less than 24 hours over the weekend. The violence in Acapulco is reflected throughout Guerrero state, in the country’s southwest, where official statistics put the number of deaths this year at 1,832, most of them due to an ongoing battle for control of the drugs trade.

The state of Guerrero has been dubbed Mexico's Iraq.
The state of Guerrero has been dubbed Mexico's Iraq.EFE
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Diez personas han sido asesinadas en Acapulco en menos de 24 horas

These numbers are down from violent peaks reached in 2012 – the city had about 100 homicides a month that year. But the intensity of the bloodshed stands out, and appears to be closely linked to the fragmentation of Mexico’s criminal organizations.

As for the crimes registered at the weekend, on Saturday two men were shot dead near the port. Later that same day, armed men were involved in a shooting, which left two dead and two injured. In the afternoon, close to the central food market, another two people were shot dead. On Sunday, at 2pm, in the northern area of the municipality, a woman and an adolescent were shot inside their home. The ninth victim was killed near a taxi rank, while the 10th was a woman allegedly attacked by her husband.

The violence in the state, which is a top producer of opium and methamphetamine and an important transit point for South American cocaine, is suffocating the tourist sector in Acapulco: the average hotel occupancy rate for the year is down to 40%; a recent survey by the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness ranked Acapulco last out of 78 tourist destinations in Mexico.

Guerrero is a top producer of opium and methamphetamine

In response to the violence, heavily armed soldiers and police now patrol the beaches of Acapulco.

Criminal groups in the state have turned to more localized crimes such as kidnapping and extortion to create revenue: on Friday, local media reported that a group of some 30 armed men had taken hostage 14 residents of a small rural community in the state, among them minors.

Local media said a gang known as Los Tequileros was behind the kidnapping. The group is reportedly in dispute with another criminal organization, known as La Familia, which is supported by the Jalisco Nueva Generación drugs cartel. The mass kidnapping is the third attributed to Los Tequileros this year. In January, the gang took 22 people away from a wedding; a few days later, it abducted five teachers from a school, killing two of them.

In January, Los Tequileros took 22 people away from a wedding; a few days later, it abducted five teachers

Efforts to halt the violence date back to 2006, when former president Felipe Calderón rolled out a nationwide plan, which did nothing to slow down the death rate. President Enrique Peña Nieto also promised to stop the killings in Mexico’s 50 most-violent towns and cities, three of them in Guerrero: Acapulco, Chilpancingo and Iguala. The central government called on local and regional governments to “assume their obligations and responsibilities.”

Guerrero’s governor, Hector Astudillo, took office in October 2015. Instability caused by criminal groups jockeying to make deals or gain influence with the new government has likely added to the bloodshed: in the first 100 days of Astudillo’s term, there were more than 700 murders.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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