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Tourist Zone Free of Drug Violence

By: David Real | Real Acapulco News - 16 December, 2010

(Acapulco, NA 16 December) The press in Acapulco reports daily on incidents of drug violence, which is confined to the working class suburbs outside of Acapulco proper and to small villages higher in the mountains. The tourist areas have generally been free of frightening episodes ever since the noisy encounter between drug gangs and police and military elements last summer in Acapulco’s oldest beach neighborhood. The local papers do not always distinguish between the poor neighborhoods and the tourist zone, lumping together the districts as “the port city.”

Yesterday, for example, six persons lost their lives in incidents bearing all the hallmarks of drug turf wars, but all of them took place many miles away from the beaches and hotels. Three fell in Zapata, one in Renacimiento, one in La Sabana, and one in a village called Azoyú. All of these communities are on the other side of the mountain ridge that forms Acapulco’s geologic “amphitheater” that defines the bay. In terms of US geography, it would be like discouraging visitors to Hollywood because there is gang violence in Watts. Hardly a day goes by without some reported killing in the slum areas.

The tourist zone is relatively unaffected by the drug gang turf wars for a good reason: Surely it is not that the narco-warriors feel some civic obligation to leave the hotels and beach areas alone. It is because the battling factions are interested in only two things: preservation of markets and protection of supply sources. The tourist zone is neither a good market for illegal drugs, nor does it produce anything illicit. Just as in large US cities, drug dealing in Acapulco is centered where there are heavy concentrations of the urban poor. And just as in other drug-producing countries of the world, the fertile agricultural areas are where drug “families” battle for hegemony over entire communities.

The nature of the violence differs between urban “executions” and rural acts of terror. In the poor suburbs, gangs single out individual members and collaborators of rival groups as targets of “hits.” That was the evident cause of five of the assassinations yesterday in Renacimiento, Zapata and La Sabana, working class communities along the federal highway coming into Acapulco from Mexico City. The sixth incident was in a more remote area in the mountains. Just as guerrilla groups all over the world have used terror as a means of subjugating local populations, the drug gangs try to frighten inhabitants of rural areas into cooperating in the growing of narcotic-producing plants. Their tactics sometimes lead to gruesome, inhuman atrocities, often inflicted on innocent people.

Fortunately for Acapulco’s main industry, tourism, the probability that a visitor to the beach areas will stumble into some episode of drug-related violence is about the same as the risk of being struck by lightning, and probably even less. What has injured the city is the inability of people who live far away from Acapulco to understand the local geography and perceive that the enchanting bay is far away from gangland.

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