Acapulco Underscores the Threat Posed by Mexican Drug Gangs

Cartel violence has driven away the tourists from this one-time holiday mecca.

On a good day there are few places in the world as enticing as Acapulco. From a hillside bungalow one can view a sparkling blue bay dotted with emerald isles and white-sailed yachts. In the evening cliff divers plunge 120 feet into a shallow, rocky cove as awed spectators sip margaritas on a nearby restaurant terrace.

Lately, though, good days are in short supply. In a slum on the city’s outskirts, police in early November discovered the decomposed corpses of three men wrapped in plastic bags in the trunk of a car, presumed victims of the violent turf battles among drug cartels. The following night violence came to the heart of the city when Moreno Gallo, an Italian-born Canadian mobster who served time for a Montreal murder in the 1970s, was gunned down in a leading restaurant while eating spaghetti all’ aglio e olio.

The drug wars that have claimed more than 60,000 lives in Mexico since 2006 have invaded Acapulco, turning this onetime tourist haven into the national murder capital. There were 1,063 slayings last year in this city of 688,000, or 154.5 per 100,000 residents. That was well ahead of the rate of 92 in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, the country with the highest murder rate in Latin America, and Detroit’s 54.6.


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