Here is an excerpt from Ken Ellingwood's article in the L.A. Times:
"It's one of the more puzzling episodes in a drug war heaped with unsolved cases: 20 Mexican men travel to Acapulco together and are kidnapped en masse as soon as they arrive. wo weeks later, there has been no trace of the men. Investigators have yet to announce any good leads, even though two others from the group were not taken. Against the backdrop of Mexico's extraordinary drug violence, it's tempting to write off the Sept. 30 disappearance as another grim skirmish between rival traffickers... But in the Acapulco case, the pieces don't add up neatly. Relatives back in the western state of Michoacan insist they were no drug henchmen, but ordinary guys: mechanics, students, deliverymen, an accountant, a physician. Loved ones said the friends and co-workers saved up for months for an annual, guys-only weekend in the seaside resort... Authorities have made comments casting doubt that the men were mere tourists, but have not specified a motive for the disappearances... A state police commander first raised an eyebrow, saying it was unusual for a group of men to go on vacation without family members. And Zeferino Torreblanca Galindo, governor of the state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located, was also quick to express skepticism. 'We assume it has to do with organized crime,' Torreblanca said a day after the news broke. 'I don't think anyone comes to deliberately carry out an attack on 20 tourists.' When the families complained that officials appeared to be blaming the victims, the authorities backed off, announcing that checks showed that none of the missing men had criminal records. When the men's vehicles were recovered, investigators found signs of a road trip — suitcases, beer, cookies — but no weapons or contraband. But last week, Mexico's tourism minister, Gloria Guevara, reignited tensions when she said the missing men 'didn't fit the usual profile' of a tourist. 'A tourist usually travels with family, has a hotel reservation, arrives directly at his hotel and fits certain profiles,' she told a congressional committee when a question about the case came up. Guevara stopped short of tying the men to criminal activities, but the implication seemed clear. Families of the men fired back, accusing Guevara of a 'lack of responsibility' and offering papers showing the group had reserved rooms for the three-day stay in a hotel they did not publicly identify." Link to Full Article
Analysis: To make this quick and dirty, know first off that the Mexican government can't afford to say that tourists - whether Mexican or foreign doesn't really matter - are being kidnapped in a high-profile resort area like Acapulco. I think those statements by government officials saying the men didn't fit a certain "tourist profile" are complete garbage. A tourist profile? Really? Can you honestly say that an American family consisting of a married couple and two or three kids heading to a major theme park for a week manages their vacation in the same way as four fraternity brothers from a big college heading to the Florida panhandle for Spring Break?
Speculation aside on these men's traveling habits, let's take a look at the facts. First, all the men had clean records. You can't go on the family's claims because they always say their family members aren't involved in drug dealing, but the records speak for themselves. Also, although nine of the victims were mechanics, the others had varied jobs in different places. This was also described as an annual trip, meaning it's not the first time these guys got into a few cars together and headed to Acapulco for a break.
So what did happen to them? Was it another case of mistaken identity, as the current theory goes for the Hartley/Falcon Lake case? Los Zetas are currently fighting with La Familia Michoacana for control of Acapulco. Was this another case of amateur "Zetitas" carrying out an unsanctioned attack against a group of men they mistakenly thought posed a threat?
The worst-case scenario, of course, would be that the men were easy targets and kidnapped for ransom, or like the 72 migrants, offered the opportunity to work for Los Zetas in lieu of execution. All we know is that there have been no ransom demands, and there have been no heads or bodies showing up with notes attached. When DTOs want to send a message, they don't take too much time to put the bodies on public display, so it's likely the bodies of those 20 men have been summarily disposed of already. I don't believe they were picked off solely because they were tourists, but even if this was a DTO mistake, the Mexican government has to publicly push the assumption that the men were somehow dirty.
And this is where the real problem comes in. We're seeing more and more innocent bystanders being kidnapped for ransom, or shot and killed in cross-fire between narcos, or extorted at their places of business. The easiest (and most common) explanation for the death of a Mexican citizen by narco is that they were involved in the drug trade. That easy explanation can't be made in every case anymore, which means the Mexican government has to get up off its rear end and actually start investigating cases. I don't have the exact percentage handy, but the percentage of murder and kidnapping cases actually investigated with any level of professionalism and thoroughness is in the single digits. Even in the Hartley case, which was called off after two weeks, Mexican authorities acknowledged they spent way longer looking for his body than they would have for a Mexican citizen.
Will we ever know what happened to those men, or why it happened? Probably not. We can assume with some confidence that Los Zetas were likely involved (although La Familia is always a possibility, since the men were from Michoacán). Unfortunately, we can also assume that the Mexican government will continue to make it sound (whether intentional or not) that the 20 victims somehow had it coming to them. Whether they did or not, the authorities need to realize that thorough investigations for murder and kidnapping should be the rule and not the exception.