Mexican troops descend on ‘Narcopulco’

Dan Grech Jan 11, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: You think of Acapulco this time of year and a certain set of images comes to mind. White sandy beaches and cold Mexican beer just to name a couple. But what about armed vehicles lining the highways and military planes flying overhead? Mexico is cracking down on drug traffickers, and the fight has reached the resort town.

Doesn’t really make for much of a vacation, does it? From the Marketplace Americas Desk at WLRN, Dan Grech reports.

DAN GRECH: Mexico’s two main drug cartels are engaged in a deadly turf war. Last year, 2100 people died in drug violence. That’s nearly six murders a day.

Armand Peschard-Sverdrup is with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He says the carnage resembles Iraq.

ARMAND PESCHARD-SVERDRUP: There’s been cases of municipal police officers who’ve been decapitated, and then the heads have been delivered to the police station that they were stationed in. It’s that type of graphic violence that has prompted the government to act.

Mexican president Felipe Calderon has sent thousands of troops into Tijuana and Michoacan. Now the army’s pouring into the resort town of Acapulco. But Peschard-Sverdrup says it’s not time to cancel your vacation.

PESCHARD-SVERDRUP: They’re not necessarily at your resort. They’ve been very targeted to certain parts of Acapulco, where some of the cartels have their operations.

Federal forces are burning marijuana crops and arresting suspected drug gang members.

Sanho Tree is an expert in drug policy with the Institute for Policy Studies. He says Calderon’s crackdown is misguided.

SANHO TREE: Waging a war against the stuff only makes the crop more valuable. An ounce of marijuana today is roughly the same as an ounce of pure gold.

Mexico’s drug war appears to be taking a toll on its $60 billion tourism industry. The number of visitors fell about 4 percent last year.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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