Fri, Feb 09, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Daylight killings unnerve businessmen in Acapulco

AP , ACAPULCO, MEXICO

Armed members of the Guerrero state attorney-general's office are seen through a funeral wreath as they stand guard during funeral services in Acapulco on Wednesday.

PHOTO: AP

Brazen daylight killings by pre-sumed drug smugglers just up the hill from Acapulco Bay are worrying business leaders that increasingly bloody drug wars will cripple Mexico's critical tourism industry.

Hotel owners and other business leaders in the Pacific coast resort have demanded officials do something to quell the violence that has been closing in on the city's beachfront hotels, flashy discos and fish taco eateries.

In one of the boldest attacks yet, assassins dressed as soldiers barged into two state police stations shortly before noon on Tuesday, demanded the officers hand over their guns and then opened fire. Five police investigators and two secretaries were killed, and witnesses said the simultaneous attacks were videotaped by the assailants.

Federal authorities said on Wednesday they were investigating whether some of the slain officers had ties to drug traffickers and whether the killings were meant to settle scores between the rival Gulf and Sinaloa drug cartels.

Mayor Felix Salgado told business leaders at a breakfast meeting on Wednesday that authorities were patrolling the tourist zone and will "guarantee the safety of those who visit us."

"I hope this does not affect the tourist image," he said. "We realize that these events are unpleasant, but people know that they are separate events."

Raffael Vescio, who was visiting from Canada, said he and his traveling companions were not taking any chances.

"We're afraid to go out on the street," said Vescio, who was playing cards on the beach. "If we go out or we go for a walk, we're going to be going in a group because it's too dangerous."

Others, like Mark Maric, who was also visiting from Canada with his children, said he was not going to let crime affect his vacation.

"These kinds of things can happen anywhere in the world," he said.

Mexican Tourism Secretary Rodolfo Elizondo told the newspaper El Universal on Wednesday that the killings "without a doubt are events that have a negative impact" on tourism and that his office was working to get the word out to the world that these are isolated events.

In the city, about 100 mourners accompanied the coffins carrying state police officer Felix Suastegui and secretary Angeles Gonzalez to the office where they were killed. They gathered for prayers before going to a nearby cemetery for funeral services.

The bodies of the others were taken to their hometowns in Guerrero, the state where Acapulco is located, authorities said.

One of the stations hit on Tuesday was near a main highway used by tourists driving into the resort. Days earlier, two Canadian tourists were grazed in the legs by bullets fired into a hotel lobby on the main tourist strip.

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