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.
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.
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.
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.