Beheadings, killings in Mexican resort

At least 13 people were killed
Saturday, some of them beheaded, around the popular beach resort of Acapulco,
just as foreign visitors have begun arriving for spring break.

Elsewhere in the Guerrero state
where Acapulco is located, 11 other people, including soldiers and suspected
traffickers, were killed, authorities said.

The dead in Acapulco included five
police officers, authorities said, who were ambushed while on patrol on the
city’s outskirts about 2am.

Over the next four hours, the
bullet-riddled bodies of eight men were discovered in three locations, police
said. Four had been beheaded, in the style typical of drug traffickers who have
been at war with one another and with government forces for three years.

The government is especially
sensitive to reports of drug-war violence in tourist destinations such as Acapulco
and Cancun. But no region is immune. Guerrero state is one of Mexico’s most
violent: Its position on the Pacific coast makes it a prime transit route for
smuggling narcotics to the US and coveted turf for warring cartels.

In June, as Acapulco was putting
its hopes on a recovering tourist industry, 18 gunmen and soldiers were killed
in battles one weekend in one of the city’s seaside neighbourhoods.

News channels have been showing
video of young US, Canadian and European tourists already frolicking on the
beaches of Acapulco, as if to say “maybe this year” and convey a
sense of normality.

And this weekend is a holiday; thousands
of Mexican tourists were headed to Acapulco to take advantage of a three-day
weekend marking the birthday of 19th century President Benito Juarez.

Heriberto Salinas Altes, head of
public security for Guerrero, said authorities were expecting an increase in
violence because of newly exploded power struggles among drug gangs.

“We wish to say that security
for visitors [to Acapulco] as well as for people who live here is guaranteed,”
mr. Salinas told La Jornada newspaper.

More than 18,000 people have been
killed in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon deployed the army to battle
cartels in December 2006.