Mexico can't keep the lid on anymore: narco war kills 16 in Acapulco
This weekend marked the official takeover of tourist paradise by the kind of narco war carnage that has terrorized the country, with an estimated 12,000 dead, over the past three years. A two-hour shootout with heavy weaponry erupted when police attacked a drug cartel HQ a few blocks from the main Acapulco strip of Boulevard Miguel Aleman and claimed 16 lives (some reports said18). At least one police officer died, according to reports, and four officers were later found gagged and bound in the house, but alive. This kind of public shootout in a tourist haven like Acapulco shines a public spotlight on Mexico's narco wars in a way that will surely impact on tourism. Associated Press released a video:
This has been coming for a long time in Acapulco, as it has been in other cities popular with tourists. The Mexican and U.S. governments argue the full-scale violence over three years results from the Felipe Calderon government's crackdown on the narco trade. Drug-trafficking experts in Mexico, as well as NGOs, see other reasons behind the government's military response to the drug cartels. I've gone into that in other blogs. In any case, with this weekend's violence at one of the country's most popular tourist sites, any attempt to maintain an image that killings occur largely in border cities and among the cartels themselves - with little impact on tourists - has been shattered.
In Guerrero state, with its Pacific beach resorts of Acapulco, Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa and Puerto Vallarta (which readers correct as being on Jalisco/Nayarit border), the cartel rivalry is thought to be mainly between the established Bertran Leyva gang and the Sinaloa Cartel muscling in from the north. A top Beltran Leyva gunman was believed to have been in the Acapulco house and killed.
There will be a price beyond human life to pay and, unfortunately, it will impact upon poor Mexicans who eke out a living from the tourist business. It's becoming increasingly clear that throwing the army at the problem is not working. Narco-trafficking as a parallel economy, with cadres of supporters in high places, is too entrenched in the fabric of the country. Moreover, social problems at the heart of the narco epidemic - from farmers who depend on sales of marijuana or poppy to unemployment and social rootlessness - must be addressed. Otherwise, expect more than lids blowing up; expect the entire stove to explode.
Here's Universal's report on the shootout.
And scratch what I said yesterday about not writing about narco-trafficking for a time.