The port of Acapulco, a prime destination for American tourists on the Mexican Pacific coast, is rapidly turning into a dangerous place for local residents and foreigners as not-so-peaceful demonstrators escalate protests against the government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto over the abduction of 43 students in the nearby town of Iguala.
The kidnapping of the students in late September, whom the Mexican government now says were killed and burned, and the discovery last month of 20 clandestine mass graves in Guerrero, Mexico’s second poorest state, came together to heighten security concerns for American tourists. This forced the U.S. Department of State to update its Mexico Travel Warning. The new warning, issued on October 10, calls on Americans to “defer non-essential travel to all parts” of Guerrero, except for the cities of Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa, Taxco and the caves at Grutas de Cacahuamilpa, where visitors are advised to “exercise caution.”
In light of the lawlessness prevailing in Guerrero, one wonders if it’s time for the U.S. State Department to ask Americans to defer non-essential travel to all of the state of Guerrero, including tourist destinations. A senior State Department official told me by email that they are “considering whether or not to do more; monitoring events closely, and with concern.”
James Geron, a retired American now living in Acapulco who has visited the place for the past 27 years, told me by email that the situation is so volatile that he believes it “can explode at any minute.” He added: “I no longer feel that this is a safe place for U.S. tourism. Perhaps a total U.S. ban on travel to Guerrero may force the Mexican government to act expeditiously to resolve these horrible issues.”
Geron rejected the U.S. government’s claims that the tourist zone, along the city’s main street known as Costera Miguel Alemán, is safe. “That’s where thousands of demonstrators marched. They took over the tourist zone that the state department claims is safe. Several protesters carried machetes. At one point they began to assault an armored truck.”
Over the past several days, thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in Acapulco and Chilpacingo, the state capital, to decry the government’s handling of the students case. On Monday, demonstrators blocked the main access road to Acapulco’s international airport for 4 hours, forcing flight delays. Geron told me that there were no taxis available from the airport to the hotel zone and that tourists were forced to walk in the street to get to hotels. On Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico informed U.S. citizens that a “mass demonstration” was taking place outside of the airport and cautioned American tourists to avoid the airport for the duration of the protest. On Tuesday, the protesters took over the airport again for 3 hours.
According to Mexican press reports, before a group of demonstrators arrived at the terminal, a violent confrontation erupted, in which 11 policemen were injured.