MEXICO CITY (AP) — The normally bucolic, vacationer-crowded state at the tip of Mexico's Baja peninsula has become a battleground, with dozens of killings in a power struggle following the capture of drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman nearly a year ago.
The bloodshed has been concentrated in La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur state. In the latest killings, two men bound, gagged and showing signs of torture were dumped onto streets in exclusive neighborhoods Sunday and another person was found shot to death Tuesday.
The local newspaper El Sudcaliforniano, which puts the mounting death toll in each headline on stories about violence, has reported 46 homicides in and around the city so far this year. That doesn't include the apparent shooting victim on a La Paz sidewalk Tuesday. Federal statistics through October counted 48 killings for the entire state.
Baja California Sur is better known for its beaches and Los Cabos resorts that draw thousands of American tourists. But since last year it has experienced a level of drug violence it had previously been spared.
Many of the cases have been gangland style killings, victims bound, shot, strangled or burned inside a car. Mexican authorities say it is the result of a battle for control of the drug trade since Guzman's February arrest and several other high-profile takedowns in the past year of leadership in Mexico's powerful Sinaloa Cartel.
A law enforcement official, who could not be quoted by name because of security reasons, told The Associated Press in October that criminal factions were competing for power. "It appears they're still working out how all this is going to fit together," he said.
It is not clear why the war among factions of the Sinaloa Cartel, named for the Pacific coast state where it was founded, had jumped the Gulf of California to Baja California Sur. But the cartel long battled the once-powerful Arellano Felix gang for control of drug routes on the Baja peninsula into the U.S. and is largely considered to have taken over the territory. Some of Sinaloa's biggest marijuana growing and warehousing operations have been found in Baja California Norte state close to the U.S. border, under which the cartel has built elaborate undergroundtunnels for smuggling.