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6 Spanish Women Raped in Acapulco: Mexican Woman Spared, Tourism Secretary Concerned about Mexico’s Image

Travelers Today       By    Amanda Woods

Updated: Feb 06, 2013 05:56 PM EST

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Six Spanish female tourists were raped on Monday morning by a gang of armed, masked men in the Mexican resort of Acapulco, the Associated Press reported.

During the hours-long attack, five attackers burst into the hotel room where the group was staying, holding them at gunpoint, Acapulco Mayor Luis Walton told the Associated Press. They tied up the six men with phone cords and bathing suit straps, and proceeded to rape the six women.

But authorities say one woman present, married to one of the Spaniards - was saved because of her nationality - she is Mexican, the Associated Press reported.

"She says she identified herself to the (attackers) and asked not to be raped, and they told her that she had passed the test by being Mexican and they didn't touch her," Guerrero state Attorney General Martha Garzon told local media told Radio Formula, as quoted by The Associated Press. Some Mexicans still harbor resentment again Spaniards, dating back to colonial times, the Associated Press reported - but the Spanish group could have also been targeted for their possessions or their appearance.

The attacks also drew concerns about the impact on Mexico's tourism industry. Some worry that this violence could dissuade visitors from coming to other, safer Mexican resorts, the Associated Press reported.

Acapulco Mayor Luis Walton said on Monday that "this happens everywhere in the world, not just in Acapulco or in Mexico," but he rushed to rescind his statements on Wednesday.

"I apologize for having said that," he told the Associated Press on Wednesday. "Of course this worries us, and we don't want anything like this to happen in Acapulco or anywhere else in the world."

He continued, "We know this is going to affect our tourism."

Last year, business magnate Carlos Slim, the world's richest man, rushed to rescue Acapulco by building business parks and recreational centers. But Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruise, among the last lines making port calls in Acapulco, cancelled them in December, the company confirmed to the Associated Press.

Although tourism is dwindling in Acapulco, other cites continue to draw visitors, according to the Associated Press. Quintana Roo, the Caribbean coast state where Cancun is located and hosted about 17 million tourists last year, is one of them.

"We are definitely not as contaminated with the crime issue as other states in Mexico," Juan Carlos Gonzalez, tourism secretary of Quintana Roo, told the Associated Press. "We are really sorry about what happened with the Spanish tourists ... because in one way or another, it is something that affects Mexico's image."

Kathy Gerhardt, a spokeswoman for Travel Leaders, a network of independently owned and operated travel agencies in the U.S., said U.S. tourists don't seem to be interested in Acapulco anymore.

In one of the group's recent surveys of over 1,000 travel agency owners, managers and agents, no one chose Acapulco as a top destination for their clients, Gerhardt told The Associated Press in an email.

"We do not see any 'spillover effect'" for areas like Cancun, which Travel Leaders lists as the number-two foreign destination for U.S. travelers, following Caribbean island cruises, Gerhardt added to The Associated Press.

Acapulco has a long history - Elizabeth Taylor was married there, John F. and Jackie Kennedy visted for their honeymoon and Howard Hughes spent his later years at the Princess Hotel there, The Associated Press reported.

Beheadings and drug gang shootouts became common there after 2006, when gangs battled to control the drug and extortion business there, according to The Associated Press.

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