A deadly ambush on a police convoy in the coastal state of Guerrero, Mexico, left 13 officers dead on Monday, October 23rd. The secretary of public security, police chief, 11 officers, and a policewoman were killed in the community of El Papayo along the main highway connecting the tourist destinations of Acapulco and Zihuatanejo.
The brazen daylight attack highlights the ongoing cartel violence plaguing parts of Mexico.
Ambush along Acapulco-Zihuatanejo Highway
According to eyewitness reports, the convoy containing the top security officials of Coyuca de Benítez was traveling along the highway when heavily armed men suddenly ambushed them. The assailants opened fire on the vehicles, riddling them with bullets.
After subduing the officers, the gunmen ruthlessly executed them at point-blank range. Photographs from the gruesome scene show at least five officers face down with their hands bound behind their backs. Other bodies were strewn across the area next to patrol vehicles and trees.
The intensity of the ambush paralyzed traffic along the busy highway as motorists encountered the horrific scene. After fleeing, residents quickly called emergency services for assistance. State police and military units were immediately dispatched to respond.
13 Officers Dead, Including Top Brass
According to the Guerrero Prosecutors Office, 13 officers were killed in the attack. The dead included Alfredo Alonso López, the Secretary of Public Security of Coyuca de Benítez, the highest security official in the municipality.
Honorio Salinas Garay, Chief of the Municipal Police, was also among the deceased. The other 11 officers murdered were serving as security details for the officials. Tragically, one of the victims was a female officer.
In an official video statement on Facebook, Deputy Prosecutor Gabriel Hernández confirmed 11 officers had initially been reported killed. But the final death toll later rose to 13 as more bodies were discovered.
Two additional officers were wounded in the ambush, according to reports. They were transported for emergency medical treatment.
Ongoing Cartel Turf War
Authorities have not yet definitively declared any suspects or motives behind the brazen daytime massacre. However, the attack bears all the hallmarks of organized crime, violence, and retaliation.
The coastal region of Guerrero state is strategically important for drug cartels who utilize the corridor to transport narcotics between port cities. A lucrative heroin trade has escalated conflict between rival groups like the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, Los Viagras, and La Familia Michoacana.
Just last month, La Familia Michoacana was linked to blocking roads and torching vehicles in Acapulco during a show of force after one of their members was arrested. Locals have accused the group of increased aggression and intimidation tactics.
The cartel violence has directly impacted local officials as well. Last December, armed men wounded Coyuca de Benítez’s Secretary of Security in a similar roadside attack. In June, the town’s former police chief was also assassinated.
Monday’s deadly ambush now eliminates the top brass of the local police force in one fell swoop.
Ongoing Violence in Guerrero State
The shocking murders underscore the ongoing cartel violence plaguing parts of Guerrero state. A hotbed of heroin production in remote mountain areas, various groups are locked in a bloody battle to control transportation routes to the coast.
Just last week, two state police officers and three civilians were killed in an attack in the municipality of Petatlán, located in the state’s Costa Grande coastal region.
In September, the Jalisco cartel brazenly attacked security forces using explosive drones. The government was forced to send reinforcements to combat the unrest.
Guerrero currently ranks as the seventh most violent state in Mexico, on pace to record over 1,600 homicides this year, according to government figures. However, impunity remains sky-high, with most murders going unsolved.
Part of National Trend
The high-profile massacre also follows a national trend of deadly attacks targeting police officers in Mexico.
According to the organization Causa en Común, 341 police officers have been killed so far across Mexico in 2022. During President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration starting in 2018, over 2,100 police murders have been tallied.
The reasons behind the attacks are complex, but most stem from embedded corruption and infiltration of departments by organized crime. Officers who resist bribery and threats leveled by cartels often pay with their lives.
In March 2022, 19 officers were massacred in a shooting ambush in the northern state of Coahuila. A week later, cartel gunmen killed five officers inside a home in Sinaloa.
The brazen, unsolved killings of police chiefs and high-ranking officials project a climate of fear and impunity across Mexico. They also represent a direct challenge to governmental authority and the rule of law.
Government Vows Action
In response to the deadly ambush, Guerrero state officials have vowed action to combat the unrest and deliver justice.
Additional state police units have been deployed to bolster security across the municipality of Coyuca de Benítez. Patrols and checkpoints have been established in coordination with the military, navy, and National Guard.
Investigators have also begun gathering evidence and following leads, although no suspects have been named. According to Deputy Prosecutor Hernández, officials are analyzing past criminal threats and incidents for potential connections to the massacre.
State leaders urgently need to follow through on their commitment to restore order and the rule of law in impacted regions. A sustained security response and addressing the root causes fueling organized crime will prevent future atrocities.
Otherwise, cartel violence and revenge killings will continue unabated across Mexico’s most vulnerable states like Guerrero.