Aid, recovery workers targeted in southern Mexico

By The Associated Press | Posted - Jun. 11, 2014 at 3:22 p.m.

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Drug gang members were responsible for the killing of three government aid workers whose beaten bodies were found this month in a clandestine burial site in Mexico's southern Guerrero state, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Drug gangs and criminals in the largely lawless mountains of Guerrero have taken to attacking even aid and recovery workers, making it more difficult to help the poverty-stricken, disaster-prone region.

The Guerrero Attorney General's Office said arrest warrants had been issued for five suspects, who allegedly work for a local gang and are believed to be involved in growing marijuana.

The three victims, all men, worked for a government food agency that delivers basic foodstuffs to poor families. They disappeared in April during a delivery run to isolated villages in the mountains of Guerrero. Their beaten, decomposed and shot-up bodies were found June 3 at a clandestine grave site in a field.

On Tuesday, Jorge Ramirez Marin, head of the federal housing and land agency, said two companies building new houses after last year's flooding in Guerrero have walked away from projects amid threats from criminals. While he did not specify what the threats were, it is common for drug gangs in Mexico to demand extortion payments from companies involved in public projects.

The government is struggling to build replacement housing for families in Guerrero whose homes were damaged by the twin punch of tropical storms Manuel and Ingrid in September. The combined flooding and mudslides from the two caused about 130 deaths.

Ramirez Marin said that after a delay, another firm had been found to continue the construction work.

But the pressure has apparently been so great that Ramirez Marin issued a public call for companies to resist extortion demands.

"I ask the managers of these projects not to try to negotiate any agreements outside the law to continue on with their work," he said, adding that federal forces would provide security.

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