Upsurge in killings rocks Acapulco
An upsurge in killings has made Acapulco one of Mexico's most violent places, scaring away what international tourism remained and recently prompting the US government to bar its employees from travelling there for any reason.
In response, Mexico has lined the city's coastal boulevard with heavily armed police and soldiers, turning Acapulco into a high-profile test case for a security strategy that the government has used elsewhere: When homicides spike, flood the area with troops. Today, it's almost easier to find a truck full of soldiers, a federal policeman or a gaggle of local tourist cops than it is to find a taxi along the costera, the seaside boulevard that runs through the hotel zone. Marines patrol the beach, while federal police watch over the breakwaters.
Experts say Acapulco shows the limitations of the government's security strategy. Federal police, almost none of whom are from the city, quickly get lost once they leave the coastal boulevard and ascend into twisting, hillside neighbourhoods. Their heavy weapons are ill-suited to urban policing, and they're hampered as well by Mexico's unwieldy judicial system and a lack of investigative training.
Acapulco's latest wave of killings began April 24, when bursts of gunfire broke out along the coastal boulevard. It was the first time such sustained shooting had been seen there since the darkest days of 2012, when the murder rate in this city of 800,000 hit 146 per 100,000 inhabitants. It has since fallen to about 112 per 100,000, but that remains far higher than nationwide levels and appears to be on the rise again.
The conflict started late last year between the Beltran Leyva gang, which used to control the city, and the Independent Cartel of Acapulco, or CIDA, which arose following the death of cartel boss Arturo Beltran Leyva in 2009.
The Beltran Leyva family, now supported by Mexico's fastest-rising cartel, the Jalisco New Generation gang, tried to reassert control in November, calling themselves La Empresa, or 'The Company', and employing a small group of professional killers known as the Russians.