MEXICO CITY -- Mexican officials announced Wednesday that they had arrested six men on suspicion of raping a group of Spanish women who were vacationing this month near the violence-plagued resort city of Acapulco -- an incident that sparked international concern about the safety of the millions of foreign tourists who visit the country each year.
At an afternoon news conference in Acapulco, Mexican Atty. Gen. Jesus Murillo Karam said the six suspects, who range in age from 16 to 30, had confessed to authorities. He said that one other suspect remained at large.
“This case is, I can safely say, solved,” Murillo Karam said.
Authorities said the six tourists were raped Feb. 4 by masked, armed men who burst into their beachside rental home and tied up their male companions. A Mexican woman in the house was left alone, officials said. The men also allegedly made off with cash, electronics and other items.
Federal officials were called in to help investigate what would normally be considered a state matter -- a sign of the importance of the case to Mexico, where tourism is among the most important national industries. Acapulco, in particular, has suffered mightily in the last two or three years as violence, much of it tied to warring drug gangs, plagued working-class neighborhoods beyond the traditional tourist zones.
The aggressive investigative methods stirred resentment and protest in Acapulco. On Tuesday, the main road through town was blocked by protesters, including a number of people who said their family members had been detained even though they had nothing to do with the case.
“Every night they take away two, four, six people,” one protester told the Mexico City newspaper La Jornada. “We’re tired; they get to the houses and say we’re taking them to Mexico [City]. We want them to get the ones who are really guilty.”
Angel Aguirre, the governor of Guerrero, the southern state where Acapulco is located, said Wednesday that the government would not arrest "scapegoats."
“We do not want, at any moment, to take scapegoats, or much less innocent people, to jail in a case this delicate,” he said. “We are acting responsibly and efficiently to erase this bitter chapter in the history of tourism in our port of Acapulco.”
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