The attack appears to be drawing attention partly because of the amount of sexual violence involved: at least seven girls were reportedly raped during the assault.
The group of 90 campers, the majority of them between 13 and 19 years old, were sponsored by a Church group, and were camping during the weekend as part of a spiritual retreat.
According to the AP, the attack lasted four hours, and the armed group left after stealing two vehicles and several other items from the campers.
Authorities ranging from the governor of Mexico state to the Church to governing party the National Action Party (PAN) have issued strong condemnations of the attack. According to the state attorney general, investigators have already identified those responsible for the sexual attacks.
That the victims formed part of a Christian community may partly explain why the case is generating so much outrage. While President Felipe Calderon’s administration has repeatedly emphasized that most of Mexico’s crime wave involves inter-gang warfare, incidents such as this more recent attack contradict such assertions, and contribute to the perception that Mexico’s insecurity is greatly affecting innocent civilians.
The attack’s proximity to Mexico City may also heighten the sense that delinquency is now affecting city residents’ ability to lead lives relatively untouched by violent crime. Mexico City has so far escaped the levels of violence seen elsewhere in the country, including the second and third-largest cities, Monterrey and Guadalajara. But incidents such as the Christian youth group assault rupture the impression that Mexico City is the exception to violent, shocking crime. Similarly to the shooting in Mexico City’s international airport last month, when violent incidents take place in the capital, they usually generate far more attention and concern than those registered in Mexico’s peripheral areas.
The attacks against the campers also serve as a reminder that while the Calderon administration has emphasized the government’s fight against organized crime, Mexico still has a serious street crime problem. For now, it appears that the primary motive behind the attack was theft. This type of crime -- along with car jackings, home break-ins, and muggings -- may arguably affect ordinary citizen security more on a day-to-day basis than activities related to the drug trafficking cartels.
The attack against the campers also raises the question over where to invest resources as Mexico struggles to improve security. Many Mexico media sources have questioned why the police meant to patrol the park where the assault took place were not on duty at the time. One likely result will be a promise to increase police presence in the campground. But capturing those responsible and giving them an efficient and fair trial will likely be just as much of a deterrent than merely increasing security force presence in a given area.
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