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Apparent Mass Murder Of 43 Students Hurts Mexico's Tourism


Mexico is absorbing news of its own atrocities - 43 students disappeared, apparently murdered, earlier this year. And the aftermath of that crime hangs over this holiday in Mexico. Today is supposed to be the end of a long weekend of celebration marking the nation's 1910 revolution. It does not feel like a holiday in the state where the students disappeared. It's the state of Guerrero, which includes the Pacific resort of Acapulco. That's where we find NPR's Carrie Kahn.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: There seems to be more hotel cancellations than reservations in Acapulco these days - 14,000 since the news broke last month of the abduction of 43 students at the hands of corrupt cops and drug traffickers. Mexico City resident Shadia Morales says she tried to get her deposit back.

SHADIA MORALES: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: But the hotel wouldn't return her money. She sits on Acapulco's popular Condesa beach with a full cooler of beers and the place practically to her self - unheard of on the long weekend holiday.

MORALES: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: It's a shame that people are too afraid to come here, she says. It hurts tourism and the people who depend on it. Luciano Medell can attest to that.

LUCIANO MEDELL: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: We were hoping the place would be full, he said, but look up and down here, no one. Medell, who's 61, sells boat ride tickets. For about 20 bucks, you get a two-hour tour with full bar and disco music. He hasn't sold a ticket in five days.

MEDELL: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: There are no tourists, people are afraid, and authorities, where are they, he asks? That's what a lot of people are wondering. In the past week, a string of violent protests have rocked the state of Guerrero. With little resistance from local police, protesters burned government offices, blocked major highways and took over Acapulco's airport for hours. Most days, masked students commandeer toll booths on the federal highway that leads to the beach.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: This weekend, several dozen masked students were out in force. They asked motorists for a 50 peso donation - about three and a half bucks. Diana Lopez, like most, happily gives it.

DIANA LOPEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Their fight is just, she says, rolling through the toll plaza. Don't let the government mock us, she shouts back. Keep up the fight. Authorities say a local drug gang killed the 43 students and burned their bodies. Positive identification could take weeks. Javier Saldivar Rodriguez, president of Acapulco's Chamber of Commerce, says the continuing protests are bad for business.


KAHN: He says workers have had their hours cut. Only half of Acapulco's hotel rooms were full this long weekend. Saldivar says more than 80 percent of the state's economy depends on tourism in Acapulco. There didn't appear to be a shortage of people, though, at La Quebrada, Acapulco's famous cliff diver's show. Hundreds lined up to watch the young daredevils leap off the towering rock face and fly down to the water below.


KAHN: Tourist Victor Gonzalez is right at the cliff's edge. He says it may look crowded, but in all the times he's come to Acapulco, he's never gotten this close before. He says the government must stop the violence in the country.

VICTOR GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: It it has to end, he says. We all need to support the students. They were the ones that were attacked, but, he says, who knows who'll be next. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Acapulco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.