Dozen police killed in Coyuca de Benitez, Mexico by drug gang

MEXICO CITY — At least a dozen police officers and a local security supervisor were killed in a brutal ambush Monday in a coastal town north of Acapulco, a sign of how criminal gangs are openly confronting authorities in a state known for heroin poppy production.

The attack occurred in the village of El Papayo, about 30 miles northwest of Acapulco along the coastal road to another beach resort, Zihuatanejo, authorities said. The initial target was Alfredo Alonso López, who served as head of public security in the surrounding municipality of Coyuca de Benitez, according to the daily El Financiero. When the gunmen opened fire, López called in police reinforcements, who were also slain, the paper said.

In addition to López, the dead included the municipal police chief, Honorio Salinas Garay, and at least 11 other officers. Five of the slain officers were discovered face down, their hands handcuffed behind their backs, according to the newspaper El Universal.

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Violence has been surging in Guerrero state as crime gangs fight over territory. The Familia Michoacana has been aggressively pushing into the Acapulco area, according to the daily Reforma. The armed group has a base in the traditionally violent northwestern part of the state — known as Tierra Caliente — where it is said to have ties to local politicians, according to Reforma.

Judicial personnel in the Tierra Caliente have come under such threat that the state prosecutor’s office over the weekend ordered administrative employees there to halt their work.

At least 16 crime syndicates are active in Guerrero, engaging in drug-trafficking, kidnapping and extortion, according to Defense Ministry documents cited earlier this year by the daily Milenio. The gangs exert such control over local communities that, when two alleged drug traffickers were arrested in July, thousands of residents besieged the state capital, Chilpancingo.

The threat in Coyuca de Benitez wasn’t new. López took over as public-security chief after his predecessor quit in December, following an attack that left him wounded.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has rebuffed the kind of confrontational approach to organized-crime gangs followed by his predecessors, arguing that the U.S.-backed strategy led to spiraling violence. Instead, the president has created a National Guard to increase the government presence and introduced social programs to lure youth from crime gangs.

Homicides dropped last year, but remain high by historic standards. Many analysts fear growing violence as Mexico approaches national elections next year, and crime groups battle to preserve or increase their political power.

Falko Ernst, senior Mexico analyst for the International Crisis Group, noted that Guerrero has long been plagued by violence. “But the current, preelectoral levels of violence are extraordinary,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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