On Nov. 1, Stratfor published a security memo indicating the 20 male tourists kidnapped in Acapulco a couple of weeks ago had ties to La Familia Michoacana. Here's a brief excerpt from the report:
"A group of 20 tourists from Morelia, Michoacan state, reportedly kidnapped Oct. 1 in the Costa Azul neighborhood of Acapulco, Guerrero state, was sent on orders from La Familia Michoacana (LFM), Reforma reported Oct. 26, citing Mexican federal security sources. According to the report, LFM sent 22 men to Acapulco (two of the men eluded capture) to “heat up” the region as part of its struggle with its rivals from the Cartel de la Sierra, headed by Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. Some of their objectives reportedly included assassinating the mayors of Acapulco and nearby San Marco and attacking area schools. Mexican authorities learned that Valdez Villareal had ordered the kidnapping of the 20 during the interrogation of Isidro “El Quirri” Juarez Solis, allegedly the plaza boss for the Acapulco region for the Cartel de la Sierra, whom they detained several days after the 20 were kidnapped."
Analysis: The folks at Stratfor don't believe the men are tourists, and for the most part are going with the information they received from the federal police. I can't say that I'm too surprised by the information, but sending 22 guys with no criminal record to assassinate all those high-level people? Even Stratfor claims those goals are very ambitious by Mexican standards, and I believe they're even more ambitious for a smaller - albeit increasingly powerful - DTO like La Familia. Plus, the Reforma source Strafor is using is someone within the federal police. Maybe I'm getting too cynical for my own good, but there's the possibility that for PR purposes, the feds want the public to believe those men were "bad guys" and not innocents being kidnapped and mass-murdered in a major tourist town. Yes, they could have been dirty too, like everyone else, but....I don't know.
Now you have to throw into the mix the fact that on Nov. 3, 18 bodies were found in a mass grave near Acapulco. There hasn't been any confirmation yet that the bodies are 18 of the 20 men who were kidnapped. However, also on Nov. 3, a video was posted on the Internet of two men being interrogated about the kidnapping. An Associated Press story reported they killed "the Michoacanos" in an act of revenge against La Familia, and were ordered to bury those bodies in Tres Palos outside Acapulco. The same story also reports Guerrero state investigators say they corroborated the men worked as mechanics and had no criminal records. Investigators also say they could find no evidence linking the men to any gang and have speculated the group may have been targeted by mistake.
So which is it? La Familia operatives sent to assassinate several high-level and extremely difficult targets who were targeted for kidnapping and death by a rival cartel? Or tourists who were victims of mistaken identity? Both stories are plausible, and while I have several tons of respect for the analysts at Stratfor, I don't know that the federal police and subsequent Reforma story completely passes the smell test. Even the YouTube video of the interrogation could be DTO propaganda taking advantage of the situation. If those men were targeted accidentally, no one will ever really know because dead bodies in a mass grave aren't too chatty. We'll see what else comes out of the investigation over the next few weeks.