El Chapo moves to take over Acapulco?

Houston Chronicle:

Perhaps more sinister than the savagery used on the 15 men whose headless bodies recently were dumped like offal on an Acapulco sidewalk was the signature on the placards accompanying them.

"El Chapo Guzman," they were signed, referring to the Napolean-size man who is Mexico's most infamous and arguably most powerful gangster.

The handwritten notes warned that the men's brutal fate - the coroner said they were still alive when their heads were severed - would be shared by any who "attempt to enter the territory."

If the men really were murdered on behalf of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, it means the drug lord - listed by Forbes as one of the world's richest men and by the U.S. Department of Justice as worth millions in rewards - is laying claim to the Pacific Coast resort.

That portends even more violent days ahead for an already bloodied city that's both a prime gateway for South American cocaine and a lucrative market for selling drugs to locals and tourists.

Last Saturday's slaughter also might signal that Guzman, whose gunmen already are battling rivals for control of Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana and other cities, is willing to employ a barbarity that has rarely been his trademark.

"It really isn't his style to use these types of actions," Luis Astorga, a leading analyst of Mexico's drug trafficking organizations, said in expressing doubt that Guzman was behind the beheadings. "But each organization wants to show itself as more terrifying than its competitors."


The violence has been spurred in large part by the government's dismantling of trafficking gangs and the capture or killing of their bosses. Half the 37 men who officials say are Mexico's most dangerous gangsters have been put either in their graves or behind bars.

Such a "kingpin" strategy, advocated by U.S. officials, proved key to bringing Colombia's criminal organizations under control in the 1990s. It has been the linchpin of Calderon's effort.

Although killings accelerate as underlings or rivals move into the vacuum left by the fallen, those who eventually win prove less capable and weaker than the men they replace, Mexican and U.S. officials argue.

"When the very powerful historic leaders fall, these little bosses that were under them lose their operating capacity," Alejandro Poire, the government's public security spokesman, said this week. "The new leaders who try to assume these positions do so amid a notably weaker criminal structure."

Most of the violence has been by rival gangs fighting over turf and the murders in Acapulco seem consistent with this trend. The evidence at least hints that Guzman sees an opportunity in Acapulco that he wants to exploit. Whether this will pull him out of his hideout where the Government can take him down is doubtful, but it is possible if he feels comfortable in the resort.
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