The Los Angeles Times, 1/10/2011
With a weekend death toll of more than 30 victims, including 15 who were found decapitated, the Mexican resort city of Acapulco is facing its most gruesome levels of drug-related violence since the start of the drug war in 2006. Authorities in Guerrero state, where Acapulco is located, said that in all31 people died violently in or around the city on Saturday and Sunday (link in Spanish).
Reports said decapitated bodies were found with messages indicating that the killings were ordered by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel and Mexico’s most-wanted man.
If Sinaloa hit men are indeed active in the Acapulco area, it would suggest a likely escalation in future violence for a city that has seen drug-related killings soar since the death of Arturo Beltrán Leyva, the capo who had controlled the valuable trafficking port.
Beltrán Leyva was killed in an operation led by the Mexican navy in December 2009. Like previous deaths or captures of high-profile drug lords, the sudden absence of a criminal figurehead in the region resulted in a scramble for control among splintering or rival groups. (The same phenomenon, for example, occurred in the Tijuana border area after the deaths or captures of capos in the Arellano Felix cartel.)
In this case, Beltrán Leyva’s death was believed to have spurred Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez to step in briefly as leader before Valdez was captured in August 2010. (He entered federal custody and possible extradition to the United States with a now-famous smirk.) His father-in-law Carlos “The Cowboy” Montemayor reportedly took his place, but he also was captured, in November in Mexico City.
The violence currently gripping Acapulco is now due to a turf war among three groups, two of which have emerged only in the last year, according to the weekly news magazine Proceso.