13 Law Enforcement Officers Killed in Ambush in Mexico

An armed group ambushed and killed more than a dozen law enforcement officers in southwestern Mexico on Monday, including a local security secretary and a police chief, adding to a soaring number of deadly attacks against the police in the region.

The slaughter, in Coyuca de Benítez in the Mexican state of Guerrero, left 13 security officials dead, including the municipality’s security secretary, Alfredo Alonso López, and the director of municipal police, Honorio Salinas Garay, according to a spokesman for the Guerrero state prosecutor’s office.

Guerrero is now the second most dangerous state in Mexico for law enforcement officers, with more than 34 killed so far in 2023, according to Common Cause, a Mexico-based organization tracking the killings of police officers in the country. The group said more than 340 police officers had been killed so far this year in the nation, and more than 400 killed last year.

“We demand justice and zero impunity,” Common Cause said in a statement.

While President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office promising to make Mexico safer, he has downplayed the violence in the nation and blamed the problem on his predecessors. But the clashes between rival drug organizations have prompted criticism, including from the United States. Mr. López Obrador has said much of the violence in the nation is because of the United States’ inability to prevent guns from being trafficked south into Mexico. Leaders from both countries discussed the roots of such violence during high-profile meetings in Mexico City this month.

Guerrero, a state plagued by turf wars between drug cartel organizations, has particularly been dangerous for law enforcement officers. Mr. Alonso López’s predecessor as security secretary in Coyuca de Benítez, David Borja Padilla, survived an assassination attempt in December 2022.

The violence in recent years can be traced to rival drug cartels competing for territory in the state, which includes the tourist area of Acapulco, as well as a mountainous environment used for growing marijuana and opium poppy, according to Eduardo Guerrero, a Mexico-based intelligence consultant who works with local governments in the country. He said some of the criminals in the area had been targeting law enforcement after the federal government built a new military facility in the state last year.

“We have attacks every week,” Mr. Guerrero said of the drug cartels in the state, which appear to “specialize in killing police officers.”

The targeting of security officials has become common in Tierra Caliente, a region shared by Guerrero, Michoacán and the State of Mexico, where conflicts between rival cartels have caused a surge in violence. Two prosecutors in Guerrero were killed just days apart in September. A drug gang shot to death 20 people, including a mayor and his father, in the mountains of Guerrero in October of last year. And gunmen ambushed and massacred 13 law enforcement officers in Mexico State in March 2021.

In a video message, Guerrero’s vice prosecutor of investigations, Gabriel Alejandro Hernández Mendoza, said that security officials in Coyuca de Benítez had not approached state authorities to report threats made against them. He added that the prosecutor’s office was investigating the killings.

“This prosecutor’s office commits itself to carry out all acts of investigation both in the field and in the office, as well as intelligence actions, in order to clarify the facts,” he said.

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