Mexican authorities say gunmen abducted between 10 and 12 people from a high-end restaurant in the resort city of Puerto Vallarta, with initial investigations suggesting they belonged to a rival drug cartel.
Eduardo Almaguer, the attorney general in the western state of Jalisco, said about five armed men entered the gourmet La Leche restaurant in the resort's hotel zone at about 1am on Monday morning.
He said they rounded up the men who appeared to belong to a criminal gang and drove them away in a Toyota Tacoma and a Chevrolet Suburban, leaving four female witnesses behind unharmed.
The official said that the victims appear to be from Jalisco, and the neighboring states of Sinaloa and Nayarit. He said one of them ran a private security firm and may have once worked as a bodyguard for former Jalisco governor Emilio González.
Jalisco is currently the main bastion of the increasingly powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel, though other groups are also present in the state.
The first reports of Monday's events sparked rampant rumors that the men abducted included sons of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán — the infamous leader of the Sinaloa cartel who has escaped twice from maximum-security jail and is currently behind bars again awaiting almost certain extradition.
Almaguer said the investigation had yet to find any reliable evidence to back the reports. He also refused to comment on reports that the victims include relatives of Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, another former Sinaloa cartel leader who had particular influence in Jalisco. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel emerged after Coronel was killed in a military raid in 2010. Relatives of Coronel reputedly now run a rival group known as La Corona.
The Jalisco cartel's notoriety exploded last year when it carried out a series of direct attacks on the authorities. One was an ambush that killed 15 state police officers on the highway between the state capital, Guadalajara, and Puerto Vallarta.
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Puerto Vallarta is a popular destination for American and Canadian tourists and expats. It also has a long history as a backdrop to inter-cartel rivalries, though these are not usually so public.
Jalisco's current governor, Aristóteles Sandoval, described the abductions in Vallarta as "a serious incident" that "cannot be tolerated." He also reassured tourists and residents that reinforcements had been deployed to ensure their security.
Disappearances have become increasingly common across Jalisco in recent years, although it is unusual for such large groups to be abducted en masse. Federal records show there were 2,390 people missing in Jalisco as of April 30, the third highest total in Mexico.
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