02/10/13 – During the early hours of Monday, February 4, 14 tourists who were vacationing in the seaside city of Acapulco, Guerrero, were awoken by an unidentified number of masked gunmen who had broken into their rented bungalow. Sources describe how after breaking in, the armed assailants bound and kept the seven male tourists under gunpoint as they raped six of the seven female tourists. After several hours, the intruders left the premises with stolen property and money that they had robbed from their victims. Later that day, the women reported their sexual assault to the local police department and state officials at the sexual crimes agency of the Public Ministry (Ministerio del Público, MP). Since 13 of the victims in the attack are Spanish citizens, their assault has become a matter of international affairs as the Peña Nieto administration has promised the Spanish government that it will do anything in its power to help the victims. As of February 8, government officials have not yet released a list of suspects or motive for the crime, but have questioned eight individuals for relevant information.
The municipal government of Acapulco has been thrown into turmoil as national and international media outlets have closely followed the sexual assault and the official actions that have followed. Acapulco Mayor Luis Walton Aburto immediately promised that local authorities would pursue the matter until its conclusion and that he believed that organized crime had no hand in the assault and rape of the visiting tourists. Media observers have emphasized how the masked gunmen who broke into the bungalow proceeded to steal electronic valuables such as cellphones and tablet computers along with 7,800 pesos (roughly $600 USD) after raping the victims. Reports have suggested this as evidence that the intruders’ original goal was to steal valuables, rather than a premeditated rape of the female tourists. The one female who was not sexually assaulted by the intruders was the only Mexican citizen of the group, who informed them of her nationality and, according to reports, was possibly spared because of it. After reporting the event to authorities, the victims were immediately taken under government protection as they were escorted to Mexico City where they were given subsequent physical and psychological exams and assistance. The victims’ names and ages have not been released to the public.
Government officials in the federal, state, and local levels continue to investigate possible leads in the case as they are under intense media scrutiny and diplomatic pressure from Spain to find the assailants. Local authorities in Acapulco have been particularly struggling with the bad press generated by Mayor Walton as he downplayed the importance of the sexual assaults by saying it could “happen anywhere.”
Historically, throughout the twentieth century, the city’s economy depended largely on revenue from tourism, but the ongoing war on drugs and narco-related violence has sapped Acapulco of much of its income from tourists who no longer visit its beaches. Recent attempts to revive the lagging industry were given a further blow as the Citizens Council on Security–a Mexican think tank–released a report this month citing Acapulco as the city with the second highest homicide rate in the world with 143 homicides per 100,000 in 2012, only behind the 169 per 100,000 rate recorded in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in 2012. The events of the February 4 incident are part of an ongoing trend of violence plaguing Acapulco.