MEXICO CITY (AP) — Federal police and soldiers will take over policing duties in the resort of Acapulco to ensure the safety of tourists amid a wave of violence and protests that has scared away visitors, Mexican authorities said Wednesday.
Troops and federal police will also take over policing in 20 more townships north of Acapulco in a region known as Tierra Caliente, or the Hot Lands, which is plagued by drug cultivation, trafficking and cartels. The region covers parts of the states of Guerrero, Michoacan, Morelos and Mexico State.
A similar federal policing plan had already been implemented in 16 townships, including Iguala, where 43 teachers college students disappeared in September.
National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said the patrols in Acapulco and the 36 townships will be under the command of the army and are aimed at fighting drug cartels and rebuilding municipal police forces plagued by gang infiltration.
"The effect of illegal activities combined with weak institutions has led to the violation of citizens' rights," Rubido said in Iguala. "The effort is restore security and re-establish the rule of law."
Most of Iguala's municipal police force, which purportedly collaborated with a drug gang, has been arrested or sent out of state for training and background checks. More municipal police in the region will be sent to the army-run facility for similar vetting.
The once-glamorous resort of Acapulco has been hit by reservation cancellations because of violence and protests following the Sept. 26 disappearance of the students.
In late November, the U.S. Embassy advised U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Acapulco.
Demonstrators have blocked highways to Acapulco, hijacked buses and blockaded the city's airport to demand the government find the students. Prosecutors say local police probably turned the students over to gang members, who may have killed them and burned their bodies.
In early November, demonstrators blocked Acapulco's airport for hours, causing hotel reservations on a subsequent three-day holiday weekend to fall by about 35 percent, said Javier Saldivar, head of Acapulco's business chamber.
"Federal forces will take over public safety duties in Acapulco, with a specific strategy of setting up permanent security ... but on a more immediate basis, to ensure that visitors can safely enjoy their vacations," Rubido said.