'Say Nice Things About Acapulco': Mexican Governor Urges Media Silence on Violence

The appeal for a “pact of silence” in the beleaguered southern state of Guerrero is the latest effort by a Mexican politicians to look on the bright side of the country’s security crisis. Most have backfired.
April 6, 2016, 6:30pm
Imagen por Hans-Maximo Musielik/VICE News

The governor of one of Mexico's most troubled states has appealed to local media to remain silent on the violence in an effort to limit the damage it does to the tourism industry.

"I'm not minimizing anything," Héctor Astudillo, the governor of the southern state of Guerrero, told reporters earlier this week. "What I would do, and what I ask you to do as well, is to help ensure that people talk less about the unfortunate things happening in Guerrero."

The state is home to the resort city of Acapulco that long ago lost its reputation as a playground of Hollywood stars and presidential couples, but remains a top destination for Mexican tourists. It is also the driving force of the state's economy.

"Say nice things about Acapulco," the governor said, after holding a press conference in the city to present a program he promised will tackle corruption in the state. "Say nice things about Acapulco, say nice things about Acapulco, say nice things about Acapulco."

In Photos: Acapulco, Devoted to Fun and Pursued by Horror

Guerrero in general, and Acapulco in particular, have suffered from bouts of intense violence ever since Mexico's drug wars began nearly a decade ago. In recent years much of the killing has been linked to the disintegration of the Beltrán Leyva cartel into many smaller, but equally violent, groups.

Special security operations have come and gone without consolidating anything approaching peace. The violence has periodically threatened to devastate the tourism industry in Acapulco and other tourism hubs along the coast.

The federal government registered 326 murders in the state in the first two months of this year, 16 percent more than in the same period in 2015. An estimated 62 people were murdered during the recent spring break vacation in Acapulco, according to local newspaper El Sur.

The rampage included the shooting of two shop owners from a popular crafts market who were reportedly killed after refusing to pay protection money, the storming of local nightclubs by gunmen, and several beheadings.

"It wasn't directed against tourists or residents who were minding their own business, it was mainly related with the drug world and with protection money," the governor said about the spring break violence. "I think that, as men and women from Acapulco, we have to asses whether spreading this type of news is helping us."

Astudillo told the reporters in Acapulco that they should look to the smaller resort city of Zihuatanejo where ,he said, a concerted effort to pay less attention to the violence was helping the local economy.

"In Zihuatanejo they are very aware of what is happening, but they also want tourism and they want jobs," he said. "That's why they have a pact of silence in order to keep hotels at 100 percent capacity."

Related:There's a Spike in Violence in Mexico's Most Violent State

Recent reports about killings in Acapulco, meanwhile, have gone beyond drawing attention to the resort's background of horror and highlighted new methods used.

These include at least four so-called "jet ski murders" this year. One of these involved a gunman riding up to one of Acapulco's main beaches on a jet ski in broad daylight with an accomplice. He swam to shore, shot a beachwear vendor, and then swam back to his awaiting transport to make his watery getaway.

Astudillo's appeal to the media to ignore such events is the latest in a series of calls for self-censorship made by Mexican politicians. They have usually ended badly for the politicians.

In 2009, with the drug wars gathering force in the wake of the military-led offensive he launched against organized crime at the start of his term, then president Felipe Calderón urged the media to "say nice things" about the country. He was roundly ridiculed for his efforts.

After taking office three years later, President Enrique Peña Nieto's government went to great pains to keep the security crisis off the front pages. This only fueled allegations of negligence when the disappearance of 43 student teachers in the city of Iguala in September 2014 sparked a wave of public outrage.

The events in Iguala, which is located in inland Guerrero, triggered a new round of special security operations throughout the state. Now, it appears, their limited success is prompting a new effort to encourage self-censorship.

Related: Ayotzinapa: A Timeline of the Mass Disappearance That Has Shaken Mexico

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