Mexico seeks culprits in rape of 6 Spaniards

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm •  Published: February 6, 2013

"We are definitely not as contaminated with the crime issue as other states in Mexico," said Juan Carlos Gonzalez, tourism secretary of Quintana Roo, the Caribbean coast state where Cancun is located and which hosted about 17 million tourists last year. "We are really sorry about what happened with the Spanish tourists ... because in one way or another, it is something that affects Mexico's image."

"Apart from the illegal activities that occur between drug gangs, the idea that they would attack some tourist, that would hurt all the efforts we are making."

He said his state "certainly could have some cancellations, but given the number of Spanish tourists, it would not be significant."

Rafael Gallego Nadal, president of the Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies, said the vast majority of the 50,000 Spaniards who head to Mexico every year travel to the Caribbean coast — and not to the Acapulco area that has been beset by drug violence for decades.

"This was a terrible attack but it's not the first time that something bad has happened in that part of Mexico. We Spaniards go to the Mexican Riviera" in and around Cancun, he said. "For us, this is an incredibly safe zone."

Gallego noted that most members of the group attacked are believed to be Spaniards living in Mexico City, and that Acapulco is a much bigger draw for domestic Mexican tourism than it is for international visitors.

Many Spaniards will go to Mexico during the long Easter Week vacation, and Gallego said he's heard no talk from travel agencies or groups about reducing package tour prices because of the rapes.

Kathy Gerhardt, a spokeswoman for Travel Leaders, a network of independently owned and operated travel agencies in the U.S., said events in Acapulco barely registers on U.S. tourists' radar anymore. "Those individuals trying to lump Acapulco into the list of top Mexico destinations U.S. travelers visit are misinformed. It has been decades since it was a hot tourist destination; today it is more of a destination for Mexican nationals rather than U.S. tourists."

In the group's recent survey of over 1,000 travel agency owner, managers and agents, "not a single individual chose Acapulco as a top international destination they are booking for their clients," Gerhardt wrote in an email, adding "we do not see any 'spillover effect'" for areas like Cancun, which Travel Leaders lists as the number-two foreign destination for U.S. travelers, after Caribbean island cruises.

Gallego said it's important for Mexican authorities to make arrests soon to prove that they can punish those responsible. Garzon, the state prosecutor, said "we have strong evidence to lead us to those responsible for this reprehensible act."

Acapulco is the granddaddy of Mexican resorts. Elizabeth Taylor was married there, John F. and Jackie Kennedy came on their honeymoon, and Howard Hughes spent his later years hiding out in a suite at the Princess Hotel, a pyramid-shaped icon in the exclusive Punta Diamante, or Diamond Point, zone.

Beheadings and drug gang shootouts, some on the city's main seaside boulevard, became more frequent after 2006, as gangs fought for control of the city's drug and extortion business.


Associated Press Writers Beth Harpaz and Alan Clendenning contributed to this report.