4 bus and taxi drivers shot to death in violent southern Mexico city

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Four bus and taxi drivers were killed Monday following apparently coordinated attacks by gunmen in the city of Chilpancingo, the capital of the southern Pacific coast state of Guerrero.

Drug gangs battling for control in the state have long been known to kill people for not paying “protection” fees, including drivers. In January, drivers in Acapulco and in the colonial city of Taxco staged strikes to protest the killings of their colleagues.

State prosecutors said they are investigating the killings Monday on streets and roads around Chilpancingo, and have received reinforcements from the army and National Guard.

The prosecutors said the victims were members of the transportation industry but did not specify how many drove taxis and how many drove buses. Local media reported that at least two of the dead were drivers of privately owned bus-like minivans who were shot aboard their vehicles.

Transportation workers are frequently shaken down for protection payments by drug gangs throughout Guerrero state. Some drivers are also sometimes forced to work for the gangs under threat. That is despite the fact that more army and National Guard troops have been dispatched to Guerrero — which was hit by Category 5 Hurricane Otis in October — than to any other state in Mexico.

In late January, the tourist town of Taxco endured a days-long strike by private taxi and van drivers who suffered threats from one of several drug gangs fighting for control of the area. The situation was so bad that police had to give people rides in the back of their patrol vehicles.

Earlier in January, the main Acapulco chamber of commerce reported that gang threats and attacks caused about 90% of the city’s passenger vans to stop running, affecting the resort’s main form of transport.

Acapulco has been bloodied by turf battles between gangs since at least 2006. The gangs are fighting over drug sales and income from extorting protection payments from businesses, bars, bus and taxi drivers.

Truck drivers are also growing weary of continued violent robberies of trucks and their merchandise, in which the drivers are also frequently killed.

The Mexican-American Federation of Truck Drivers, along with several other industry groups, had scheduled a demonstration by truckers on a busy highway outside Mexico City on Monday to protest the wave of killings of truck drivers during highway robberies.

But the Interior Department issued a statement Sunday saying drivers had agreed to talks with federal officials on increased security on the highways, and only scattered protests occurred Monday.

Thieves have long hijacked trucks on highways in central Mexico, but generally abandoned the drivers and their trucks after stealing the merchandise they were carrying. But now, industry groups say, the gangs often kill drivers and take the trucks to lots where they are stripped and sold for parts.


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