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Hell in Acapulco: armed groups spread panic with shootings, blockades and burning vehicles

Guerrero is one of the states hardest-hit by organized crime violence. Clashes between criminal groups for control of public transportation routes and drug trafficking are common

Passers-by run past a truck that was set on fire in Acapulco.Photo: EFE
Carlos S. Maldonado

The city of Acapulco, once the jewel in the crown of Mexican tourism, suffered another day of violence Wednesday. A group of heavily armed men caused chaos in the city after setting fire to at least twelve cars, imposing blockades and firing weapons, spreading panic among residents and tourists visiting the city in the middle of the vacation season. The events occurred around midday, when criminal groups blockaded the Acapulco-Zihuatanejo highway, near the Jardin neighborhood, in the western part of the city, in response to a police operation. Authorities deployed members of the Navy, National Guard and Army to regain control.

The authorities in Acapulco have not detailed the exact causes of the violence, which also affected private transport companies. Local media reported scenes of terror on the part of tourists and residents. A group of armed and hooded men hijacked a bus carrying a group of tourists, threatening them, and forcing the passengers off before burning the vehicle with their luggage inside. The scenes broadcast on local television show a city in chaos, with vehicles on fire, blockades, and shootings. “We attended an Acapulco Cup soccer tournament and there were many families and many children in the middle of the situation,” a witness told the newspaper Reforma. “This was happening in the main avenues until 4 p.m. [Wednesday]. The children and their parents had to stay at the soccer fields under protection.”

In a brief communiqué hours after the violent incidents, the Acapulco City Hall authorities explained that prevention protocols had been activated and they had been able to control the access routes to the coastal city. According to EFE news agency, the National Guard helped around 100 tourists and residents who were trapped in the middle of the blockade.

The latest wave of violence in the city comes two months after civilians clashed with police and took over the State Congress of Guerrero with an armored vehicle. Thousands of people broke through the security siege in the state capital, Chilpancingo, taking control of the Autopista del Sol, which connects Acapulco and Mexico City. The clashes left at least six dead.

Guerrero is one of the states hardest-hit by organized crime violence. Clashes between criminal groups for control of public transportation routes and drug trafficking are common. In Acapulco, shootings, kidnappings, and murders of people involved in tourist businesses have been reported. Local media continually report armed men entering bars and restaurants to commit murders. Last November, three bodies washed up on the city’s beaches over the course of a single weekend. They were discovered by tourists enjoying the paradisiacal shores of the resort city, who alerted the authorities.

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