"The government of Pena Nieto is trying not to talk about the issue of violence," said Chabat. "It's a strategy to change perceptions."
The reason is clear, said George W. Grayson, who studied Mexico's ruthless Zetas cartel for his 2012 book "The Executioner's Men."
"You don't want to talk about your crazy aunt in the attic. ... They want to shift the narrative," he said.
On the campaign trail last year, Pena Nieto vowed to reduce violence and said he'd take a different tack -- an election promise that played well with voters in a country weary of a drug war with a growing body count.
But two months into his six-year presidency, analysts say it's still unclear how he'll accomplish that goal.
"What he wants to crack down on are kidnappings, extortion, what's more likely to affect average people. There's been no secret that he wants to move in that direction and use more of a scalpel than a broad sword in combating the cartels," Grayson said, "and he seems to have sent a subliminal message to the cartels saying that if you just conduct your business and don't disturb civilians, we're not going to ignore you, but you're not a top priority."
Pena Nieto has stressed that fixing social and economic problems will foster peace in Mexico, and he's made some security policy shifts. He started his term by eliminating the public safety ministry and placing the federal police it once controlled under the interior ministry's power.
He's also discussed a plan to divide the country into regions to tackle security problems and to create a new national gendarmerie force, which could eventually send Mexico's military out of the streets and back into their barracks.
But the time frame for those changes is uncertain. And in the meantime, discussing violence less doesn't make the longstanding systemic problems fueling it go away, Chabat said.
"It is important for any government to talk about other topics, like the economy. But you can't negate what is happening, what people are still experiencing," he said.
'We are left with no other choice'
In some areas of Mexico, residents are tired of waiting for the government to step in to solve their problems.
"What we are seeing in a lot of parts of the country is a vacuum of the state ... and the proliferation of private security corps, of paramilitary groups," Chabat said. Incidents like the tourist attack in Guerrero will only do more to promote that approach, Chabat said, noting that it raises worrying concerns about abuses by vigilantes taking the law into their own hands.
"The government is overcome. ... That's the tragedy," he said. "There is no short-term solution."
As word of this week's rape allegations in Acapulco spread, a group of people in one nearby neighborhood took a vote on Tuesday.
If local, state and federal officials can't track down and apprehend those responsible, they decided they'll take matters into their own hands.
"We are going to have to rise up with weapons. ... We cannot wait until they keep destroying the port of Acapulco with these kinds of incidents," said Sergio Mejia, president of a 35-member association of restaurant and business owners in Acapulco's Bonfil beach community. "We think the government is very timid, very slow. If there is no immediate response, it leaves us no choice but to join the fight and set up checkpoints on the street corners."
Months ago, he read about other groups in the region taking similar steps, forming paramilitary self-defense groups of masked men that patrol the streets. At first, it seemed extreme. Now, it sounds sensible, he said.
In this area where the economy relies on tourism, he said, residents are tired of waiting for authorities to take action. But it's not just that a high-profile crime targeting tourists is bad for business.
"Today they were foreigners," said Mejia, who owns a restaurant that specializes in serving up freshly caught seafood. "Tomorrow it could be our families."
Guerrero is named for a military general who fought for Mexico's independence from Spain. It's also the Spanish word for warrior.
If the government can't protect them, Mejia says it's time for the state's residents to fight back.