Mexico City — Mexico’s drug violence is spreading to the northern city of Monterrey, as rival gangs battle for turf.
In the middle of the night Wednesday, about three dozen gunmen stormed into the Holiday Inn Centro and the Hotel Mision, dragging a half dozen people away.
Monterrey is one of the nation’s business hubs that has in recent months found itself taking its turn in the violent throes of Mexico’s deadly violence.
The state attorney general of Nuevo Leon said that gunmen abducted three guests and a receptionist from the Holiday Inn and at another nearby hotel, another receptionist was abducted too. The gunmen appeared to be searching for specific people in the 17-floor hotel, said the attorney general.
It’s the latest in a series of attacks that touch the lives of bystanders apparently uninvolved in the drug trade. The motive is unclear about why these victims, three businessmen from Mexico City and a businesswoman from the border, as well as the two receptionists and possibly a guard outside the Holiday Inn, were hauled away. None of those abducted were foreigners.
Attorney general Alejandro Garza y Garza said the violent surge the city is experiencing can be explained by rivalries between gangs vying for power. “A lot of what we’re going through right now is part of a readjustment among cartels,” Mr. Garza y Garza was quoted as saying at a news conference in Monterrey.
While a “readjustment” might imply that it’s temporary, it’s little solace to residents. Monterrey is the same city that saw two university students killed in crossfire last month between the military and suspected drug traffickers, and where trucks and cars have been hijacked and burned to block streets (local media reported gunmen used the same tactic Wednesday in carrying out the hotel abductions).
The perception that Mexico is unsafe for tourists or foreign investors, says Mexican President Felipe Calderon, is unfair. He observes that 90 percent of victims, are suspected traffickers themselves. Most places, government officials urge, are safe – despite the fact that 22,700 people have been killed since Mr. Calderon dispatched the military to fight organized crime in late 2006. (That fatality figure, released recently by the government, is much higher than long-running media tallies.)
But it will be hard to convince outsiders that Mexico is safe, when Mexicans themselves are worried. The level of fear was made evident in the weekend getaway city of Cuernavaca, also popular among US retirees, where a rumor spread on Facebook and Twitter that shootouts were likely Friday night, leading bars and restaurants to close their doors in what was described as a virtual ghost town.
The Associated Press reports that police found the bound bodies of two men Wednesday in Cuernavaca, alongside a banner that threatened to kill 25 more drug cartel members.
Police said the killings are part of a battle between drug traffickers Hector Beltran Leyva and US-born Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as “La Barbie.”
Acapulco’s tourists have also born witness to deadly battles.
In Monterrey, at least three American universities have reportedly suspended student exchange programs.
And just this week, US ambassador Carlos Pascual told a group of businessmen in Monterrey that organized crime could cause businesses to reconsider their ties to Mexico.