Not far from top re­sorts, killings are surg­ing again

The Columbus Dispatch - - Not To Be Missed - By Kirk Sem­ple

LOS CABOS, Mex­ico — In re­cruit­ing foot sol­diers, the drug gang did not have to look hard to find 18-year-old Ed­win Al­berto Lopez Ro­jas. He, in fact, had been look­ing for them.

He ad­mired the traf­fick­ers’ life­style and power. And the money he stood to make promised ad­mis­sion to the ranks of the in­ter­na­tional elite who ca­vorted in the lux­ury re­sorts mere blocks — yet a uni­verse away — from the poor neigh­bor­hoods where he grew up in Los Cabos, a tourism mecca at the south­ern tip of the Baja Cal­i­for­nia Penin­sula.

On July 28, he told rel­a­tives, the Jalisco New Gen­er­a­tion crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tion gave him a car, cash and some drugs to push. Eight days later he was dead, shot by an uniden­ti­fied as­sailant on the street.

His death is among hun­dreds that have blood­ied this once-peace­ful area — homi­cides are up more than three­fold this year com­pared with last, a surge that has stunned res­i­dents, be­dev­iled of­fi­cials and alarmed lead­ers in the boom­ing tourism in­dus­try. The sharp rise in killings prompted the U.S. State Depart­ment last month to heighten its travel warn­ing for the state of Baja Cal­i­for­nia Sur, home to Los Cabos.

The blood­shed here has not tar­geted tourists and has mostly oc­curred out of their view, in the poorer quar­ters of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lu­cas, the main towns in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Los Cabos. Much of it stems from a bat­tle among crim­i­nal groups for con­trol of traf­fick­ing routes in the Baja Cal­i­for­nia Penin­sula and for dom­i­nance of lo­cal crim­i­nal en­ter­prises, par­tic­u­larly the drug trade ser­vic­ing tourists.

But the vi­o­lence, com­mu­nity lead­ers and so­cial work­ers say, is also a symp­tom of the grave prob­lems that af­flict the re­gion’s un­der­class, re­flect­ing long-stand­ing govern­ment ne­glect. Los Cabos, they say, risks fol­low­ing the same path as Aca­pulco, the Pa­cific Coast city that was once a ma­jor va­ca­tion des­ti­na­tion but has been dev­as­tated by drug vi­o­lence.

“If they con­tinue cov­er­ing up the prob­lems, things aren’t go­ing to get bet­ter,” said Sil­via Lu­pian Du­ran, pres­i­dent of the Cit­i­zens’ Coun­cil for Se­cu­rity and Crim­i­nal Jus­tice in Baja Cal­i­for­nia Sur, a com­mu­nity group. “It’s a breed­ing ground for worse things.”

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