Acapulco…..A vacation paradise where you might be murdered. Enjoy.
Death can strike anywhere in Acapulco these days: A sarong vendor was slain on the beach in January by a gunman who escaped on a Jet Ski.
Another man was gunned down while enjoying a beer at a seaside restaurant. In the hillside slums that ring the city, a 15-year-old girl's body was found chopped into pieces and wrapped in a blanket, her severed head in a bucket nearby with a hand-lettered sign from a drug gang.
The upsurge in killings has made Acapulco one of Mexico's most violent places, scaring away what international tourism remained and recently prompting the U.S. government to bar its employees from traveling here for any reason.
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.
"This area has been made bulletproof," Guerrero state prosecutor Xavier Olea said.
Except it hasn't. A week after AP reporters visited, gunmen shot to death three young men in broad daylight two blocks away from a restaurant where they met with an underworld figure. Two of their bullet-ridden bodies lay on the concrete just off the beach, and one bled out on the sand. Two were waiters, and the third a roving coconut oil vendor.
"There are 300 paid killers on the costera," the underworld figure said, gesturing expansively over plates of fried fish and shrimp. At least one other bodyguard was nearby. "A decent killer makes about 5,000 pesos ($275) a week."
Last week two men were shot and wounded on the street a block from the popular Caleta beach. Police showed up, but when no ambulance arrived, relatives or friends simply bundled the men into private vehicles to take them to the hospital. Police marked spent shell casings with cut-off plastic soda bottles, but there was no sign of any in-depth investigation.
"It's the same problem in Guerrero, the same problem in Tamaulipas, in Michoacan," security analyst Alejandro Hope said, referring to three states where homicides have spiked. "Suddenly there's an emergency, they send troops to where the problem is and in the short term crime drops. But then there is an emergency somewhere else, and then the troops have to leave, and they have not developed local law-enforcement capacity."
Acapulco's latest wave of killings began April 24 with bursts of gunfire 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.