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Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #27: Sicarios Use a Jet Ski for Beach Front Targeted Killing in Acapulco

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Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #27: Sicarios Use a Jet Ski for Beach Front Targeted Killing in Acapulco   

Robert Bunker

Key information: Alasdair Baverstock, “EXCLUSIVE Bloodbath on the beaches: The Mexican drug gangs riding on JET SKIS to blast victims in ‘James Bond-style’ executions in Acapulco where 12 murders take place every day.” Daily Mail. 26 February 2016, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3464121/Now-Mexico-drugs-...-James-Bond-style-execution-Acapulco-12-murders-DAY-648-year.html.

The jet-ski murder, which occurred on January 29 in early afternoon, is the fourth of its kind to see killers escape from Acapulco Bay to another part of Guerrero state’s jagged Pacific coastline.

The killers who left the salesman dead on the beach in front of hundreds of onlookers have still not been caught, the case buried under the unceasing daily onslaught of crime.

Acapulco’s municipal police refused to comment on the case when approached by MailOnline…

After the attack Eduardo García, 46, bled out on the same golden sand he had walked for 25 years selling clothing.

The terrified tourists gathered around bloodied corpse and waited over an hour for the authorities to arrive. 70 minutes after the murder, a police boat traced the criminals’ escape route for any trace of the killers, but all in vain.

‘It was over so quickly, and I'm not just talking about the killing,’ Jaime Mendez, who manages the beach furniture rentals where the crime took place, told MailOnline.

‘Ten minutes after the body was taken away, things were back to normal. Murder has become a daily fact of life in Acapulco’…

‘There are a thousand reasons you can get killed in Acapulco,’ says Margarito Melio, 60, a beach salesman who worked alongside Eduardo and says he knows no reason why his friend would have become a target for the brutal local gangs…

Hoping to make 150 pesos (£6) a day selling clothing to the dwindling tourists, the beach salesmen are forced to give 15 per cent of their earnings to the gangsters who control the beach. Not paying up means death.

‘Perhaps Eduardo wasn’t paying his dues, or perhaps he was selling drugs on the side, or maybe one of his brothers is a gangster and a rival cartel is making his family suffer,’ he told MailOnline.

*See the Daily Mail article for images of the incident, map, and a short 1:03 minute video.

Who: Eduardo García, 46, who had worked for twenty-five years as a clothing salesman to tourists along the Acapulco Bay beachfront.

What: Two sicarios (assassins) on a jet ski—an operator and a shooter—engage in a targeted killing of a clothing salesman in a beach front tourist area. The shooter got off the jet ski, swam to shore, and with a 9mm pistol put three rounds into the clothing salesman’s chest which subsequently killed him.  The shooter then swam back to the jet ski and the pair of sicarios made their escape along the rocky coastline towards either Playa Tlacopanocha or Playa Manzanillo. The Mexican police did not arrive for an hour after the incident even though the police station was relatively close to crime scene. A police boat called in to locate the fleeing sicarios arrived seventy minutes after the shooting and was unable to locate them.

When: The early afternoon of Friday 29 January 2016.

Where: Along the beachfront of Acapulco Bay—La Avenida Costera Miguel Alemán —by Playa Condesa in the tourist area in the state of Guerrero, Mexico along the Pacific coastline.

Why: The incident appears related to the ongoing street taxation of beach vendors in Acapulco by local criminal gangs.

Analysis: Information related to the motivation behind this targeted killing of a beach front clothing salesmen in the tourist district of the Acapulco beach front is fragmentary at best. It is apparently the fourth incident involving sicario use of jet skis for a targeted killing in Acapulco [1] and suggests that it may be related to ongoing patterns of street taxation (e.g. extortion) by local gangs and organized criminal groups against street vendors and local businesses. The brazenness of the killing is likely meant to send a message to the other individuals and groups being extorted to either pay their monthly 15% tax to the local criminals or face the consequences. Contextually, it should be noted that the jet ski related killings have taken place during a long period of rampant crime and a high level of homicides gripping Acapulco; averaging out to 12 per day or about 650 so far this year [1]. 

The cluster of incidents is not totally unique given past patterns of terrorist and cartel/organized crime technology use and TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures). Cartel smugglers on the Rio Grande along the United States and Mexican border have utilized jet skis to ferry trafficked humans into the US [2]. A jet ski operator smuggling narcotics was also detected in the waters near Gibraltar in 2015 [3]. Much earlier, back in the 1990s, the Tamil Tigers also utilized jet skis in some of their maritime terrorism operations [4], as did at least one attempted Palestinian terrorist operation in late 1993 against Israel [5]. Further, the Islamic State gunman who shot up the British tourists on the Tunisian beach in June 2015 is also thought to have utilized a jet ski—per eyewitness accounts—to get to shore [6]. The cluster of incidents in Acapulco is unique, however, in the sense that it appears to be the first report of Mexican organized crime using jet skis for targeted killing rather than smuggling purposes. This means that the terrorist use of jet skis for maritime and beach assault purposes has now, to some extent, been copied by a Mexican organized criminal group for assassination purposes.  

Significance: Acapulco, Assassination, Guerrero, Sicarios, Technology Use, TTPs

References

[1] Alasdair Baverstock, “EXCLUSIVE Bloodbath on the beaches: The Mexican drug gangs riding on JET SKIS to blast victims in ‘James Bond-style’ executions in Acapulco where 12 murders take place every day.” Daily Mail. 26 February 2016, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3464121/Now-Mexico-drugs-...-James-Bond-style-execution-Acapulco-12-murders-DAY-648-year.html.

[2] Al Henkel and Elizabeth Chuck, “Cartels, Smugglers at Work: A Night on the U.S.-Mexico Border.” NBC News. 16 July 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/immigration-border-crisis/cartels-smugglers-work-night-u-s-mexico-border-n157426.

[3] Michael Sanchez, “Maritime Security: Fact or Fallacy? The View from Gibraltar.” CIMSEC. 19 November 2015, http://cimsec.org/maritime-security-fact-fallacy-view-gibraltar/19555.

[4] Rohan Gunaratna, “Maritime Terrorism: Future Threats and Responses.” Briefing to the International Research Group on Political Violence and Terrorism, Washington, DC., May 2001 and Gunaratna, “Suicide Terrorism in Sri Lanka and India,” p. 1. Cited by Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006, p. 331, Note 76.

[5] See the image of the captured and shot up jet ski at the Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum, Haifa and the description in Hebrew related to it. Posted 08/03/2011 at http://k38watersafety.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2964.

[6] Christian Gysin et al, “Horror on the beach: At least 15 Britons confirmed dead in Tunisian massacre as it emerges that ISIS gunman LAUGHED as he picked off his victims.” Daily Mail. 27 June 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3140454/Tourists-run-lives-Tunisian-beach-gunman-carries-attack-outside-hotel-packed-Britons.html.

Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is an Adjunct Research Professor, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College and Adjunct Faculty, Division of Politics and Economics, Claremont Graduate University. He holds university degrees in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science, and history and has undertaken hundreds of hours of counterterrorism training. Past professional associations include Distinguished Visiting Professor and Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College; Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico, VA; Staff Member (Consultant), Counter-OPFOR Program, National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center-West; and Adjunct Faculty, National Security Studies M.A. Program and Political Science Department, California State University, San Bernardino, CA. Dr. Bunker has hundreds of publications including Studies in Gangs and Cartels, with John Sullivan (Routledge, 2013),  Red Teams and Counterterrorism Training, with Stephen Sloan (University of Oklahoma, 2011), and edited works, including Global Criminal and Sovereign Free Economies and the Demise of the Western Democracies: Dark Renaissance (Routledge, 2014), co-edited with Pamela Ligouri Bunker; Criminal Insurgencies in Mexico and the Americas: The Gangs and Cartels Wage War (Routledge, 2012); Narcos Over the Border: Gangs, Cartels and Mercenaries (Routledge, 2011); Criminal-States and Criminal-Soldiers (Routledge, 2008); Networks, Terrorism and Global Insurgency (Routledge, 2005); and Non-State Threats and Future Wars (Routledge, 2002).