Drug War Violence Expands in Acapulco: 31 Dead in 4 Days

Members of the Mexican Navy inspect 15 beheaded bodies found in the beach resort of Acapulco, Mexico, on January 8, 2011. Twenty-three people were murdered Saturday in Acapulco, including 15 decapitated men found near a shopping center, authorities said, in latest onslaught in Mexico's brutal drug wars. Police responding to a report of a fire shortly after midnight instead found five abandoned vehicles and the bodies of 15 men who had been beheaded, they said. Messages whose contents were not disclosed were left with the bodies. AFP PHOTO/STR

Man slain on Acapulco highway; 31 dead in 4 days (AP):

The body of a murdered man was found Monday on the main highway to Acapulco, bringing to 31 the number of people killed in the Pacific resort city over four days.

The unidentified man was shot several times in the head and found under a pedestrian bridge with his shirt pulled over his face, said Fernando Monreal Leyva, director of the investigative police for Guerrero state, where Acapulco is located.

Leyva said federal, state and local police planned to meet Monday with the military to consider ways to beef up security in Acapulco, where 14 decapitated men and two police officers were among the unusually high body count since Friday evening.

Most of the killings occurred in just a few hours from Friday night to Saturday in non-tourist areas of the city. But the officers were shot to death in front of tourists on Avenida Costero Miguel Aleman, the hotel-lined thoroughfare that runs along the bay.

Drug violence has increased in southern Guerrero state as factions of the Beltran Leyva cartel began fighting for territory after leader Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed by Mexican marines in December 2009.

At least three drug groups are fighting for control in Acapulco, Mexico (Los Angeles Times):

With a weekend death toll of more than 30 victims, including 15 who were found decapitated, the Mexican resort city of Acapulco is facing its most gruesome levels of drug-related violence since the start of the drug war in 2006. Authorities in Guerrero state, where Acapulco is located, said that in all 31 people died violently in or around the city on Saturday and Sunday (link in Spanish).

Reports said decapitated bodies were found with messages indicating that the killings were ordered by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel and Mexico’s most-wanted man.

If Sinaloa hit men are indeed active in the Acapulco area, it would suggest a likely escalation in future violence for a city that has seen drug-related killings soar since the death of Arturo Beltrán Leyva, the capo who had controlled the valuable trafficking port.

Beltrán Leyva was killed in an operation led by the Mexican navy in December 2009. Like previous deaths or captures of high-profile drug lords, the sudden absence of a criminal figurehead in the region resulted in a scramble for control among splintering or rival groups. (The same phenomenon, for example, occurred in the Tijuana border area after the deaths or captures of capos in the Arellano Felix cartel.)

In this case, Beltrán Leyva’s death was believed to have spurred Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez to step in briefly as leader before Valdez was captured in August 2010. (He entered federal custody and possible extradition to the United States with a now-famous smirk.) His father-in-law Carlos “The Cowboy” Montemayor reportedly took his place, but he also was captured, in November in Mexico City.

The violence currently gripping Acapulco is now due to a turf war among three groups, two of which have emerged only in the last year, according to the weekly news magazine Proceso. In an extended article on the climate in Acapulco that appeared in mid-December, the magazine said those players were: first, a branch of the Beltrán Leyva organization under Hector Beltrán Leyva, or “The H”; the new “south Pacific cartel,” believed to have been founded by Valdez; and another offshoot group calling itself the “independent cartel of Acapulco.”

51 executed in Mexico drug violence (AFP):

Drug-related violence over the weekend claimed 51 lives across Mexico, including 15 decapitations in the beach resort of Acapulco, authorities reported.

The beheadings, mutilations, drive-by shootings and summary executions were carried out in southeastern Guerrero and northern Chihuahua states, as well as in the Mexican capital, despite the government’s five-year, 50,000-troop crackdown on organized crime.

By far the grisliest scene unfolded Saturday at an Acapulco shopping center where the decapitated bodies of 15 men were found on the sidewalk, with their severed heads bunched nearby. Two of the victims were 17 years old, a Guerrero official said.

It was the worst mass decapitation since August 2008, when 12 headless bodies were found in eastern Yucatan state capital Merida, in a crime attributed to the notorious Los Zetas drug cartel.

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