Political

RISK LEVEL: MODERATE

Guerrero is divided into 81 municipalities and 7 political regions. The current governor of state is Hector Astudillo Flores who took office on 27 October 2015 for a six-year period. Flores is affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The current mayor of Acapulco is Adela Roman Ocampo of the National Regeneration Movement or Morena party who took office in October 2018. Ocampo has been trying to improve the tourist industry in Acapulco and has recently urged that the city is ready to welcome visitors to the once popular holiday destination. Ocampo also said that she would reorganise the municipal police force in Acapulco in order to tackle the ongoing violence in the city.

In Acapulco, there have been ongoing protests over the past several years following the kidnapping of 43 rural students known as the “Ayotzinapa 43” in September 2014. The students were reportedly kidnapped by local police in Guerrero and then handed to a crime syndicate. Some of these protests have turned extremely violent and it is assessed that the potential for civil unrest continues. In May 2018 residents dressed as clowns demonstrated along a central Acapulco street demanding an end to the wave of crime in the city. The use of clown costumes was linked to the recent murder of a juggler. In October 2018, there were demonstrations in Acapulco following the murder of journalist Gabriel Soriano Kuri by armed criminals. The journalist had been covering a televised report by the governor of Guerrero Hector Astudillo Flores.

Operational

RISK LEVEL: HIGH

Acapulco is a major seaport on the Pacific coast in the state of Guerrero and was once a popular tourist destination used as a frequent holiday destination by the rich and famous. However, since 2014 there has been a massive surge in violence involving gangs and cartels which has had a huge affect on the number of foreign tourists that visit the area. Acapulco is now the deadliest city in Mexico, known as the ‘murder capital of Mexico and the third-deadliest city in the world. Guerrero itself is a main growing area for opium poppies, which is then processed into heroin and shipped overseas or north across the border to the US. Recently it is reported that the price for opium paste has dropped due to drug cartels using the cheaper synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Opium production has led to a violent and extreme turf war between cartels and gangs who are each seeking control of the area.

Acapulco suffers from heavy congestion and poor road conditions. Public transport in Acapulco is not safe due to the constant risk of violence and theft. The best way to travel around Acapulco is by a prearranged taxi, or ‘sitio’ taxi, which can be organised by hotels, ensuring that the fare is predefined prior to travel. Taxi drivers themselves have been the target of gangs, with around 2,000 drivers killed in Acapulco since 2009. Taxis are not permitted to go near General Juan N. Alarez International Airport (ACA) but there is a special airport transit service that most travellers use. Rental cars are available but can be expensive and are not recommended due to the poor road infrastructure. A new highway bypass is being built to cut travel times from the western side of Acapulco. ACA is the main airport of Acapulco, located 26 km away from Acapulco itself, flights to and from Mexico City operate on a regular basis. A new terminal was opened in May 2018, which now allows the airport to handle around 1.3 million passengers and also has new technology and advanced earthquake and hurricane resistance.

Acapulco features a tropical wet and dry climate with the warmest areas close to the sea. Travellers should ensure they have appropriate sun protection which can be expensive if bought in the city itself. Tropical storms and hurricanes are threats to Guerrero from May through to November. Acapulco is divided into three areas; the ‘traditional’ area, from Parque Papagayo to the beaches of Caleta and Caletilla, the main area known as ‘Zona Dorada’ and the south end, ‘Diamante’, which houses high-end hotels. Acapulco is located on an active earthquake zone. In September 2017 a magnitude 7.1 earthquake caused a bridge on the Mexico to Acapulco highway to collapse. Guerrero itself is located on the Guerrero gap and there have been fears for years that a huge tremor over 8 on the Richter scale may strike at any time. Travellers should exercise caution if buying food from vendors on the streets as it may not have been stored, cleaned, prepared or refrigerated correctly. Only bottled water and ice cubes made from purified water should be consumed. Travellers should ensure they have current vaccinations for hepatitis A, typhoid, tetanus and measles-mumps-rubella. In 2010, there was an outbreak of Dengue fever in Guerrero, however the risk is generally low in beach areas such as Acapulco.

Tourism is the main economic activity, most of which is centred in Acapulco Bay. Approximately 73% of the population is involved in commerce most of it related to tourism and the port. Acapulco remains popular with tourists despite the ongoing criminal conflicts, however due to the escalation in violence this is now predominantly Mexican nationals rather than foreign tourists.

Due to the insecurity in the city a large amount of waste has built up in the streets of Acapulco, which has led to severe health risks. Around 900,000 residents of Guerrero struggle daily with extreme poverty with many of the small mountain towns outside of Acapulco seeing some of the worst poverty in the western hemisphere.

Security

RISK LEVEL: HIGH

Acapulco has one of the highest murder rates in the world, record at approximately 103 per 100,000 inhabitants, with the majority linked to the ongoing war between rival criminal gangs and cartels. There are daily reports of extortion, kidnappings and homicides in Acapulco, at the end of 2018 there were 874 people reportedly killed in the city. According to data, during the first three months of 2019 there have been 440 reported homicides and 18 kidnappings incidents in the state of Guerrero in one such case a US tourist was shot and killed in of Vista Hermosa, Acapulco in February 2019. The most violent areas of Acapulco have been identified as Ciudad Renacimiento, Progreso, Center and El Coloso all of which should be avoided by travellers. Armed crime and violence occur is not just confined to the outskirts of Acapulco and can happen at any time in the more central tourist area of the city.

There are believed to be at least 5 cartels involved in a turf war in Acapulco and 40 criminal gangs are fighting to control the drug market. Cartels are intermixed with representatives from larger drug cartels who contract them for jobs. Foreigners often get caught up in the line of fire during cartel chaos and shopkeepers in Acapulco are forced to pay extortion money or protection money to gangs. One such cartel is the La Barredora or ‘The Sweeper Truck’, themselves a splinter group from the Beltran-Leyva Cartel, who no longer have a presence in Acapulco. The group is known to have links to the Sinaloa Cartel and was once a rival of the now disbanded Independent Cartel of Acapulco. Whilst the majority of violence conducted by such groupings targets rival cartels, there is a real and present danger to travellers and tourists who may be caught in the cross fire or considered to be targets of opportunity by cartel members. As a result, many domestic and international business travellers to the area engage private security companies.

During September 2018, a joint operation in Acapulco with the Mexican military, federal police and state police was announced by the State Attorney General for Guerrero. The municipal police were disarmed by the joint operation, due to suspicion that it had been infiltrated by the drug gangs. Criminal investigations and patrols are now led by the joint operation, meanwhile the entire municipal police force is under investigation to their alleged links to criminal gangs. Municipal police wear blue uniforms and can be ideintified by livery displaying ‘Policia Municipal’.

Roadblocks are a frequent concern in Acapulco, many are set up by armed gangs. Pickpocket risk is high in Acapulco, travellers should exercise caution when in busy public areas such as airports, stations and any public event, belongings should not be left unattended and valuable items should be kept hidden such as jewellery. Express kidnappings can happen, particularly in urban areas. This method involves victims being forced to withdraw money from ATMs as a ransom payment for release. It is advised that travellers exercise caution when withdrawing cash from ATMs, which should be conducted during daylight hours.

Terrorism

RISK LEVEL: LOW

There is currently a very low chance of a terrorist attack occurring upon Mexican soil; few or no credible threats are made directly towards the country or its people. However, travellers should always remain highly vigilant in any unfamiliar territory and be open to the possibility of acts of terrorism unfolding. The threat to life in Acapulco is linked to the security situation in the city and the active cartel and drug gangs, who will often utilise tactics akin to those employed by prescribed terrorist groupings