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Americas

Acapulco violence scaring off US spring breakers

© Tourists play during sunset on a beach of Acapulco, Mexico on October 2, 2015

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2015-10-16

American college students used to visit Acapulco during their holidays by the thousands, but they are now shunning the beach resort as it has become Mexico's murder capital.

A favorite haunt of Hollywood stars in the 1950s, Acapulco has lost its luster in recent years. Images of dead bodies are making a splash in newspapers more often than the city's legendary cliff divers.

Between two and six people are murdered every day in Acapulco, according to the Guerrero state prosecutor's office.

In an all-too-common scene, a body lay on a pool of blood on a recent night this month, with 20 bullet shells strewn on the pavement in front of a hospital.

"My son was innocent," cried the victim's mother, a 30-year-old shopkeeper, as she held his hand in front of investigators while onlookers took pictures with their cellphones.

That same evening, shootouts were reported in two other neighborhoods.

Officials have been targeted, too. A municipal staffer was shot dead this month as he drove his car near Acapulco's main avenue.

On Saturday, a city councilman was shot dead in broad daylight as he headed to a suburb.

More than 88 percent of Acapulco residents feel unsafe in their city, topping a national survey on the perception of violence in Mexican metropolitan areas.

At least 336 people were murdered between January and May, a 42 percent increase from the same period last year, according to government figures published by El Universal newspaper.

More than 500 people were killed in the first eight months of the year, the daily said.

Most of the violence is blamed on turf wars between drug gangs.

Fewer Spring breakers, cruises

As gangland battles rose in Acapulco between 2008 and 2012, foreign tourism began to drop.

In 2009, there were 30,000 rowdy US college students in town for their Spring break holiday. But two years later, only 500 ventured to the Pacific resort and today they are rarely seen.

"We would see young spring breakers in the swimming pools of hotels and in nightclubs having fun. Although many people didn't like how they entertained themselves, many want them to return," said the manager of a hotel who requested anonymity.

The US State Department's travel warning for Mexico urges Americans who visit Acapulco to avoid traveling more than two blocks inland of the Costera Miguel Aleman Boulevard, which parallels the beach.

"We don't see foreign tourists here," said Adrian Montoya, 25, who works at a shop in Acapulco's airport. "We see many Mexico City residents, but people from other countries don't come to Acapulco."

The cruise ship industry has also looked to other shores. Only seven cruises visited Acapulco last year, compared to 150 five years ago.

"If there's no security, (cruise) lines are not interested in coming to Acapulco," said Juan Pedro Falcon Moreno, president of the Travel Agency Association of Acapulco.

At least 900 businesses in the city have closed this year, while some nightclubs are now only opening during high season. Others have shut their doors permanently in the face of extortion from criminals.

Acapulco's new mayor, Evodio Velazquez Aguirre, is hoping to lure back foreign tourists by beefing up security with the paramilitary gendarmerie force, federal police and state police under an operation dubbed "Acapulco Shield."

(AFP)

Date created : 2015-10-16

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