Fear in Acapulco

A sudden surge in violence in the Mexican Pacific resort of Acapulco is baffling authorities. In the last year, nine police officers have been killed in Acapulco, a city of 700,000 in the southern state of Guerrero. Since January alone, there have been 20 execution-style killings, among them the municipal police chief, two Mexican tourists, a prominent disco owner and an investigator for the state attorney general’s office.

Grenades have twice been hurled from passing cars at a police post in a popular tourist district. Another attack occurred in mid-September when a group of men with machine-guns strafed a police station on a road leading out of town, wounding three officers. On the same day, the head of the patrol division of the state police was gunned down in the inland state capital, Chilpancingo.

Authorities say some of the attacks on the police are linked to the Zetas, enforcers and assassins for the Gulf Cartel. They are said to be punishing the police for their supposed alliance with Los Pelones, slang for “new soldiers,” a gang in the employ of fugitive kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzmán of the rival Sinaloa Cartel.

Shipments of guns from China and cocaine from Colombia have been seized in Acapulco’s port. The state is also known for marijuana and poppy production.

The violence in Acapulco hit a high point in June, when the chief of the Guerrero state police, Julio Carlos López Soto, was gunned down in the heart of the tourist zone after leaving a well-known steakhouse, La Mansion. Two days earlier, Soto had taken part in the seizure of an arms cache in an upscale neighborhood. The weapons seized included automatic rifles, grenades and high-caliber handguns.

The gunmen also abducted Soto’s bodyguard, Pedro Noel Villega Aguilar, beat him and forced him to memorize a message for the authorities: that there were already 120 members of the Zetas in town who were intent on killing allies of Guzmán.

Around the same time two men arrested in a shooting in Zihuatenejo, 150 miles up the coast, identified themselves to the police as Zetas.

Acapulco’s mayor-elect, Félix Salgado, who takes over in December, noted that the violence seemed to heat up when a new governor from the leftist Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) took office last year, suggesting that there might have been clandestine deals between members of the old government, controlled by the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and drug gangs. “This is a kind of violence that didn’t exist before,” he said. (El Universal, Oct. 20)

See our last post on violence in Guerrero.