A spate of murders in Guerrero, Mexico appears to be linked to a power struggle between local gangs as criminal group Los Rojos experiences internal chaos, providing one illustration of the volatile situation in this small southwestern state.
In the past two weeks, more than 20 homicides have been committed in the Guerrero state capital, Chilpancingo, reported Proceso.
The most recent events occurred on May 28, with nine people killed, including three men who were found decapitated to the south of the city. Next to the men's bodies was a note warning of an impending upsurge in violence in the city.
Additionally, some 15 taxi drivers from the area were reported disappeared.
According to authorities, the murders and disappearances are linked to turf disputes between various criminal groups following the arrest of the top leadership of local gang Los Rojos.
Official reports indicated the taxi drivers may have been informants for Los Rojos. Last year, the mayor of Chilpancingo acknowledged the presence of around 150 "narcotaxis," which operate without licenses, acting as scouts and performing some other duties for drug gangs.
InSight Crime Analysis
Los Rojos are an offshoot of one of Mexico's major cartels, the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), but have long operated independently in Guerrero and, as a smaller group without the transnational connections of their counterparts, rely heavily on extortion and kidnapping for profit.
SEE ALSO: BLO News and Profile
In April this year, the two top members of the group were arrested, leaving a power vacuum in the organization that has seen various key members captured and killed in recent years, including the group's founder. Another alleged leader of Los Rojos was arrested earlier in May.
While it is unclear if the recent spike in violence is due to infighting between Los Rojos factions or other gangs flexing their muscles as the group experiences internal chaos, the power struggle between local criminals is nothing new.
The decline of the BLO in Guerrero saw the emergence of a number of other gangs, including the Independent Cartel of Acapulco and the South Pacific Cartel. The Knights Templar and Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG) are also believed to have a presence there. The failure of any one group to exert the kind of hegemonic control formerly enjoyed by the BLO has resulted in frequent outbursts of violence, with the resort town Acapulco particularly hard hit.
Amid this chaos Guerrero has become one of Mexico's most violent states, with the third-highest number of homicides and highest number of kidnappings reported in 2013.