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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 October 2018

Mexican marines take over Acapulco from cartel-infiltrated police

Three senior officers were arrested for murder and possetion of unlicesned wepons

Mexican Navy members and Federal policemen take part in an operation in Acapulco, state of Guerrero, Mexico, on September 25, 2018. Mexican military forces arrested three police officers of the Mexican resort of Acapulco and took control of the local Public Security Secretariat due to possible leaks of organized crime in the institution, authorities confirmed / AFP / FRANCISCO ROBLES
Mexican Navy members and Federal policemen take part in an operation in Acapulco, state of Guerrero, Mexico, on September 25, 2018. Mexican military forces arrested three police officers of the Mexican resort of Acapulco and took control of the local Public Security Secretariat due to possible leaks of organized crime in the institution, authorities confirmed / AFP / FRANCISCO ROBLES

Mexico’s new government has sent heavily armed marines into the famous beach resort of Acapulco to disarm and take over a local police force they believe may be widely infiltrated by violent cartels.

Acapulco in southern Guerrero state, once a glamorous beach resort for Hollywood's rich and famous, has fallen on hard times as entrenched drug crime has transformed it into one of the most murderous cities in the world.

Mexican Navy members and Federal policemen take part in an operation in Acapulco, state of Guerrero, Mexico, on September 25, 2018. Mexican military forces arrested three police officers of the Mexican resort of Acapulco and took control of the local Public Security Secretariat due to possible leaks of organized crime in the institution, authorities confirmed / AFP / FRANCISCO ROBLES
Mexican marines take control of Acapulco. AFP

The local police’s near non-existent response to the rising violence led to the military’s intervention and the arrest of three top officers on Tuesday.

Two police commanders were arrested on murder charges, and the highway police chief for carrying unlicensed weapons, he said.

Fearing the Acapulco police force had been infiltrated by the drug cartels, the marines, together with state and federal police, deployed in a massive ground and air operation around the Pacific coast city's police headquarters, said Guerrero state security spokesman Roberto Alvarez.

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The city’s other police officers are under investigation, the group said, without specifying how many, adding that weapons, bulletproof vests, ammunition and radios were seized.

Municipal security secretary Max Lorenzo Sedano and his entire department are under investigation, he added.

"This decision... was a response to the increase in crime registered in the municipality and the total lack of action by the municipal police to confront the problem," he said.

epaselect epa06942225 Tourists watch an airplane show in Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico, 19 August 2018. Foreign pilots will perform again tomorrow during the opening of the Air Show Acapulco. EPA/David Guzman
Tourists watch an airplane show in Acapulco, Guerrero. EPA

The state security ministry announced it would take over policing duties in Acapulco indefinitely.

Mexico has launched similar operations numerous times in recent years when a police force is suspected of being infiltrated by organized crime, but it is unusual in a city the size of Acapulco, which has nearly 700,000 inhabitants and welcomed some 690,000 visitors last year.

Guerrero is a hub for opium poppy production and the scene of frequent violent clashes between warring drug cartels.

Although over a thousand soldiers, federal police, local police and private firms, supported by areal units and even drones patrols the beaches of the tourist strip, visitors have been mixed up in the violence.

There were over 30,000 murders across Mexico last year, the highest in records going back to 1997, as rival drug gangs splintered into smaller, more bloodthirsty groups following more than a decade of a military-led campaign to battle the cartels.

In July, the government said there had been 15,973 homicides in the first six months of the year, compared with 13,751 killings in the same period in 2017.

epaselect epa07036277 Members of Mexico's Marines participate in the destruction of drugs in Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico, 20 September 2018. The Mexican Marines on 20 September burnt 4.7 ton of cocaine, 468 kg of marijuana and 54 psychoactive pills seized at the states of Guerrero and Morelos. EPA/DAVID GUZMAN
Mexican Marines burnt 4.7 ton of cocaine, 468 kg of marijuana and 54 psychoactive pills seized at the states of Guerrero and Morelos on Sept, 20, 2018. EPA/DAVID GUZMAN