The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

February 6, 2013

Acapulco rape case overshadows peak tourist season

ACAPULCO, Mexico — The tourism world turned its eyes on Mexico after six Spanish women were raped by masked gunmen during a vacation in the long-troubled Pacific coast resort of Acapulco.

While there has been talk of reviving the golden era of the '40s and '50s, international tourists have long steered away from Acapulco, even before the drug violence of recent years, as the city fell into disrepair and glitzier Cancun and Los Cabos gained favor.

The question now is whether the attack will affect other resorts as Mexico prepares for its annual spring break onslaught and peak season.

The hours-long assault was carried out by a gang of masked gunmen who burst into the beachfront home before dawn on Monday and tied up the six men inside, then raped the women. A seventh Mexican woman was unharmed.

"We are really sorry about what happened with the Spanish tourists because ... it is something that affects Mexico's image," said Juan Carlos Gonzalez, tourism secretary of Quintana Roo, the Caribbean coast state where Cancun is located and which hosted about 17 million tourists last year.

But, he added, "we are definitely not as contaminated with the crime issue as other states in Mexico."

Acapulco barely registers on U.S. tourists' radar anymore, said Kathy Gerhardt, a spokeswoman for Travel Leaders, a network of independently owned and operated travel agencies in the U.S.

"Those individuals trying to lump Acapulco into the list of top Mexico destinations for U.S. travelers are simply misinformed," she said.

In a recent survey of over 1,000 travel agency owners, managers and agents, "not a single individual chose Acapulco as a top international destination they are booking for their clients," Gerhardt said.

"We do not see any spillover effect," she added, for areas like Cancun, which Travel Leaders lists as the No. 2 foreign destination for U.S. travelers, after Caribbean island cruises.

From a 2009 shootout that killed 18 near Acapulco's fabled Flamingo Hotel to this week's attack, the resort once celebrated in Frank Sinatra songs and Elvis Presley movies has been the scene of body dumpings, beheadings and taxi-driver killings as gangs vie for drug transport routes once controlled by the now-decimated Beltran Leyva cartel.

Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises — some of the last lines making port calls in Acapulco — canceled those in December, before the latest attack.

An estimated 50,000 Spaniards travel to Mexico each year, but mostly to the Caribbean coast, not Acapulco. Mexicans and Spaniards living in Mexico like the victims, however, flock to Acapulco during Easter week and other long holiday weekends, such as Monday, when the country celebrated its Constitution Day.

Local tourists believe they can distinguish unsafe areas of the city, and even foreign travel warnings say it's safe for those who don't wander far from the beach.

"For us, this is an incredibly safe zone," said Rafael Gallego Nadal, president of the Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies. "This was a terrible attack, but it's not the first time that something bad has happened in that part of Mexico."

He said there has been no talk of travel agencies reducing package tour prices.

Some press reports Wednesday suggested a drug purchase could have played a role in Monday's rapes, but Marcos Juarez, the chief investigator for Guerrero state prosecutors, said there was no evidence of that.

Still, the attack exposed a dangerous security situation in areas that had been considered safe, such as the laid-back stretch of beach dotted with restaurants, small hotels and homes southeast of the city's center, where the Spaniards had rented a villa.

Gunmen Rape 6 Tourists Near Acapulco, Mexico

The five attackers held the group at gunpoint, tying up the six men with phone cords and bathing suit straps, then raping the six women over a three-hour period, authorities said.

The manager of a hotel near the house said he heard shouting just after midnight Monday, but did nothing because he felt it would be too dangerous. The man did not want to give his name for safety reasons.

It was unclear whether the victims had been targeted because of their nationality.

Guerrero state Attorney General Martha Garzon told local media that the attackers' motive was robbery and that they drank mescal they found at the house. The Mexican woman, who is married to one of the Spaniards, "was saved by the fact that she is Mexican," Garzon said.

"She says she identified herself to the (attackers) and asked not to be raped, and they told her that she had passed the test by being Mexican and they didn't touch her," Garzon told Radio Formula.

While some Mexicans harbor resentment against Spaniards dating to colonial times, the victims may have been targeted for other reasons, such as appearance or possessions.

Mayor Luis Walton rushed to apologize Wednesday for his comment the day before that "this happens everywhere in the world, not just in Acapulco or in Mexico."

"Of course, this worries us and we don't want anything like this to happen in Acapulco or anywhere else in the world," he said. "We know this is going to affect our tourism."

Billionaire business magnate Carlos Slim, ranked by Forbes magazine as the world's richest man, proposed a plan last year to rescue Acapulco by building parks and recreational centers there.

Still, it would be a long way from the city's heyday, when Elizabeth Taylor was married in Acapulco, John F. and Jackie Kennedy spent their honeymoon there and Howard Hughes hid out in a suite at the Princess Hotel, a pyramid-shaped icon in the exclusive Punta Diamante, or Diamond Point.

Gallego said it's important for authorities to make arrests soon to prove that those responsible will be punished. State prosecutor Garzon said authorities have strong evidence leading to the culprits.

Given the sheer volume of visitors to such popular destinations as the Caribbean Riviera Maya south of Cancun, Gonzalez said, "we certainly could have some cancellations. But given the number of Spanish tourists, it would not be significant."

As if to illustrate the continuous danger in Guerrero, state authorities announced Wednesday that armed men ambushed and killed nine police officers a day earlier. The attack was in the town of Tepoxtepect, near the border with Michoacan state, an area known for drug trafficking.


Associated Press writers Beth Harpaz in New York and Alan Clendenning in Madrid contributed to this report.


Text Only
National and world
  • CDC Ebola web.jpg U.S. warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries

    “The bottom line is Ebola is worsening in West Africa,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who announced the travel warning.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast web.jpg Gaza truce comes after days of pushing for a deal

    Finally, less than an hour after all sides signed off on the precise and technical wording for a 72-hour truce, Kerry issued a statement and called a 3:30 a.m. Friday press conference to seal the deal before any party could back out.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Taiwan web.jpg Gas explosions kill 24, injure 271 in Taiwan

    The fires were believed caused by a leak of propene, a petrochemical material not intended for public use, but the source of the gas was not immediately clear, officials said.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Congress web.jpg Congress races to finish VA, highway bills

    House Speaker John Boehner accused Democrats of pursuing a “nutso scheme” of trying to seize on the border crisis to try and grant a path to citizenship to millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Illinois Unemployment_Hass.jpg As U.S. job market strengthens, many don't feel it

    "If the economy is getting better, I'm not sure for whom. It certainly hasn't trickled down to me." — Douglas Hunter, who earned $14 an hour before the Great Recession and now works three days a week for $9.25 an hour, mopping floors and fixing fryers at McDonald's.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • House Obama Lawsuit.jpg Republican-led House approves lawsuit against President Obama

    Just a day before lawmakers were to begin a five-week summer recess, debate over the proposed lawsuit underscored the harshly partisan tone that has dominated the current Congress almost from its start in January 2013.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Russia Putin web.jpg Sanctions could damage Russia

    The sanctions go further than earlier penalties — which had largely targeted individuals — by broadly limiting the trade of weapons and of technology that can be used in the oil and military industries. The EU also put its capital markets off-limits to Russian state-owned banks.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Libya web.jpg Thousands flee to Tunisia to escape Libya fighting

    Many diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador, have pulled out of the country. With the interim government paralyzed, the fighting threatens the planned opening session of the newly elected parliament on Aug. 4.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obit Robert Drew web.jpg Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies

    Starting in 1960 with “Primary,” Drew produced and sometimes directed a series of television documentaries that took advantage of such innovations as light hand-held cameras that recorded sound and pictures.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama Ukraine Russia_Hass_W.jpg GOP-led House approves lawsuit against Obama

    The suit will contend that Obama has exceeded his constitutional powers in the way he has enforced the 2010 health care law.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads