Acapulco gunfight: 3,000 shots, 18 dead
As if Mexican tourism needed more bad news, a weekend shootout left 18 gunmen and soldiers dead in Acapulco, the iconic if faded beach resort...
Los Angeles Times
As if Mexican tourism needed more bad news, a weekend shootout left 18 gunmen and soldiers dead in Acapulco, the iconic if faded beach resort that has been working on a comeback.
Roughly 3,000 shots were fired and 50 grenades were thrown, according to reports. Nine people were wounded, including three bystanders.
The four-hour gunfight Saturday night took place in a seaside neighborhood of homes and cut-rate hotels, mainly frequented by Mexicans and several miles from the main strip of tourist complexes. Some guests reportedly were evacuated from nearby hotels, but no tourists were known to have been caught in the crossfire.
The specter of Mexico's drug war spilling into one of the country's best-known resort spots is a fresh blow to a tourism industry hit hard by a flu outbreak and by previous worries about escalating drug-related violence.
The shootout area offers scenic views and once was favored by Hollywood stars such as 1950s "Tarzan" actor Johnny Weissmuller, who co-owned the Los Flamingos Hotel with John Wayne. The hotel, blocks away from the shootout, is still popular with older Americans.
Gunfire could be heard some distance away at the Hotel Paraiso.
"Yes, there was fear on the part of some guests, because even though the shooting was not close to our facilities, shots could be heard. And you could see a lot of movement of soldiers," hotel spokesman Ruben Morales said. "That frightened people who live here, and tourists, of course."
The gunbattle began after army officials received an anonymous tip, according to a military statement. Troops came under fire when they arrived at a house in the western section of the resort city, the Mexican army said.
The army said 16 gunmen and two soldiers died during the gunfight.
Some media reports said the gunmen belonged to the Beltran Leyva drug-trafficking gang, based in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, but the reports could not be confirmed immediately.
Soldiers later recovered 49 rifles and handguns, 13 grenades, two grenade launchers and more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition, the army said.
Media accounts said a Mexican army colonel escorted reporters to the house after the shootout. Inside were four handcuffed Guerrero state police officers who said they had been kidnapped. The colonel, who wore a mask and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the army had not confirmed their account.
Acapulco, the premier resort town for America's rich and famous in the 1950s and '60s, suffered a decline as traffic and urban sprawl took over the palm-swept ambience. The city was reborn in the 1980s as a popular resort for Mexicans, and the working class now flock to the old hotel zone.
U.S. tourists also have returned after construction of the new "Diamond Zone" strip of five-star hotels — on the other side of town from Saturday's violence.
While tourism usually is slow this time of year, numbers are worse than usual after the H1N1 flu outbreak in late April pushed hotel occupancy in Mexico to half its normal rate and prompted the cancellation of many flights and cruise-ship visits.
Tourism Minister Rodolfo Elizondo said the downturn could cost Mexico 100,000 jobs and $4 billion this year.
The Acapulco area has experienced scattered drug-related violence, although it is not a key battleground in the Mexican government's war against drug cartels. But coastal Guerrero state is a well-used route for smuggling illegal drugs from South America toward their U.S. market and has been the scene of regular clashes among rival drug traffickers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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