MEXICO CITY – The U.S. government on Friday barred its employees from travelling to the Mexican resort city of Acapulco, where a rise in homicides attributed to drug gangs has made it one of the world’s deadliest cities in recent years.
The new travel guidelines posted online by the State Department extended a ban that already covered nearly the entire state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located and which has been a flashpoint of drug violence.
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American government employees previously could go to Acapulco as long as they travelled by air instead of land. They are still allowed to visit the Guerrero state resorts of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo if they fly.
Famous in decades past as a playground for Hollywood stars and other American tourists, Acapulco, a Pacific Coast city of about 700,000 residents, registered 902 homicides last year, according to government statistics. For all of Guerrero, there were 2,106 killings, a 33 per cent increase over the previous year.
The violence peaked around summer in Acapulco, but murder rates continue to be high and have even become common in tourist zones near the beach.
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Last month, on Good Friday, the dismembered bodies of two men were discovered in plastic bags and an ice chest in neighbourhoods along the city’s seaside boulevard.
In late February, a roving saleswoman was shot dead in broad daylight at Condesa beach. Earlier in the month another victim, a man, was killed in the same area.
And in January, another roving salesman was fatally shot on the sands of Hornos beach by a man who then escaped on a Jet Ski.
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There were 139 killings in Acapulco in January-February 2016, the most recent months for which figures are available. That’s up from 95 killings during the same two months in 2015, but lower than the murder rate seen last summer when 107 people were killed in August alone.
Guerrero is the only Mexican state for which the State Department has a near-total travel ban for U.S. government employees, although it warns people to “exercise caution in” or “defer nonessential travel to” other parts of the country that are afflicted by drug violence.