A wave of extreme violence in Guerrero has turned a new spotlight on the failure of multiple government operations designed to at least contain rampant organized crime in the beleaguered southern Mexican state.
In one attack armed men stormed a cock fight in a small coastal plain town killing 12 people. In another six people in a mountain town were kidnapped and their corpses scattered in a neighboring area.
The violence of recent days also included a seven-hour shootout between community police officers and gunmen in a different mountain region, and three men shot dead outside a football match on the outskirts of the resort city of Acapulco where a number of schools were also stormed by armed groups looking for protection payments.
"There has been an escalation of organized criminal violence in various parts of the state," Juan Angulo, director of the local newspaper El Sur told VICE News. "In Acapulco there have been deaths every day."
Guerrero has long been among the country's most violent states as a patchwork of cartels fight to control territory used for the cultivation, transport and distribution of drugs, as well as other criminal activities such as kidnapping and extortion. Groups such as Guerreros Unidos, Los Rojos and Los Ardillos typically also seek to infiltrate political and security institutions to advance or defend their turf.
But a major scaling up of federal forces, and special security operations, in the last year was supposed to be addressing Guerrero's long-running security crisis. The operations were launched when the state's troubles were put under the spotlight after the disappearance of 43 student teachers in the city of Iguala in September, 2014.
While it was already clear that the situation in Guerrero was not improving, the recent spike of spectacular attacks has suggested it is actually getting worse.
The last few days have been particularly bad, beginning with the murder of three men outside a soccer match on the outskirts of Acapulco on Sunday afternoon.
That same night an attack on a mechanics workshop hosting a clandestine cockfight in the municipality of Cuajinicuilapa left 12 people dead, including children. Local news media reported that the attackers were after a local drug gang leader who was among five also wounded in the assault.
Less than 24 hours later, the bodies of six people were found in the municipality of Chilapa, a mountain town already well known as a focal point of rivalry between the Rojos and the Ardillos. Five of the victims — including a seven-year-old girl and a one-year-old baby — were relatives of the former security chief of Chilapa. They had been kidnapped a few hours before. The cab used to abduct them was incinerated and dumped.
"The situation completely slipped out of our hands during the weekend," state attorney general Miguel Angel Godínez admitted to Radio Fórmula on Tuesday. The official neverless insisted the authorities were making "important efforts in prevention, safety, and justice."
Many observers have linked the recent violence to the inauguration of Héctor Astudillo as Guerrero's new governor two weeks ago.
Changes of government have a tendency to be associated with worsening of drug war related violence throughout Mexico. Analysts point to the way they can both leave old corruption deals obsolete and encourage criminal groups to seek to negotiate new ones with the incoming authorities.
"I believe the worsening of the violence is because of the change of government," said Angulo, the local newspaper editor. "Such moments in politics produce adjustments among the criminal groups."
Mexico's Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, meanwhile, sought to put the blame entirely on the failures of governor Astudillo's predecessors. Astudillo is from the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party. He replaces Rogelio Ortega, an independent who took office after Angel Aguirre, of the opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution, resigned in October 2014 during a wave of public outraged sparked by the students' disappearance.
"These last months in Guerrero have been really difficult for us," Osorio Chong told local media, referring to the lead up to the inauguration. "We had to do what governor Angel Aguirre and his substitute should have done. They did not create new institutions, or more police agents, and now Guerrero is suffering the consequences."
The minister's comments, however, sound to many like an effort to evade responsibility.
Political analyst and security expert Raúl Benítez stressed that Guerrero's governments have much to answer for. He also said that the current situation in Guerrero may be a criminal reaction to the new governor's creation of a special state level security commission that could threaten agreements local mayors have with local drug cartels.
But, the analyst added, the federal authorities should also take their share of the blame.
"Osorio Chong is trying to justify the federal authority's ineffectiveness by putting the blame on the corruption of local governments," Benítez told VICE News. "It's really a shared responsibility."
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