You may have visited, are considering a trip, or know someone who has been there. Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Acapulco are some of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico for vacation travelers. For the most part, these Mexican tourist playgrounds have not been effected by the violence but that trend is now changing. The year 2017 continues to reveal troubling historical crime statistics with 2,566 drug-related homicides reported in the month of June in Mexico.
Quintana Roo, a state in Mexico’s southeast, is home to the resort areas of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The 134 homicides reported so far this year are nearly equal to the 165 seen all last year. As the article linked below suggests, both the government and the drug cartels have similar reasons for not publicizing the statistics.
After the arrest of Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the violence has escalated due to turf wars between the rival cartel gangs that have spread to the area that is an entry point for narcotics. Also, the growing opiate problem in the United States has been a boom to the heroin production and distribution from Mexico, thus compounding the violence. Many of the acts of violence go uninvestigated due to indifference by authorities and residents. According to the Fragile States Index the conditions in Mexico have worsened within the past year.
A 200- man vigilante team formed by local businessman Carlos Mimenza accuses officials of colluding with cartels and claims to have police and politicians under 24 hour surveillance. With a $20 billion tourist industry in Mexico, Mexican tourism officials are claiming the industry is unaffected by the violence.
Excerpts from recent interview by Kaitlin Lavender of the Cipher Brief with former U.S. Border Patrol Chief about the efforts of Mexico to secure the region.
Is Mexico now increasing their presence on that border area? Or has it been stagnant?
Fisher: It’s been kind of stagnant. They are somewhat reflexive in terms of where and how they deploy. Their biggest capability against the cartels largely comes from the military. And when the crime or the violence increases, typically it increases in places like Mexico City, so it draws a lot of those resources away from the border areas for them to be able to stabilize the larger population areas that are being affected through extortion or kidnappings and ransom for money, or what have you. So they’re somewhat reactive. They don’t have – like the U.S. – the necessary resources to cover everything. When they go through their own allocation process a lot of that is driven by current events – where is the crime occurring and in what areas? And to the extent that they can operate along the border they do; but it’s probably a smaller percentage of their mission focus now.
TCB: And do you think that’s mainly a product of lack of resources, or do you think it’s an issue with corruption in local forces and therefore a desire to use the military instead?
Fisher: There’s a whole host of reasons for that, not the least of which is corruption. Whether you’re looking at narcotics trafficking or human smuggling, it’s a billion-dollar industry, and I would be naïve to think that somehow the government at whatever level is not getting some of that money. When I was in the patrol and dealing with the officials in Mexico, they would tell you that not preventing someone from leaving their country to come into the United States illegally is not against their constitution. So basically, they’re not going to put resources to stop smugglers.
The best that they’ve been able to do, probably about a decade or so ago, is they had a group called Grupos Beta, and this was kind of like the U.S. equivalent to [the] Red Cross. They would operate in the desert in Mexico, just to make sure that the aliens were hydrated and had enough food before they would make the trip to the U.S. I wouldn’t consider that an enforcement presence; I would consider that more of a humanitarian concern. I’m not knocking it, but I’m saying that in terms of them being as vigilant on their northern border as we are on our southern border, it pales in comparison.
As the case in making a decision to visit any foreign tourist destination, Counter Threat Group, LLC., recommends that you consult open source travel resources to assist in your planning, including but not limited to the United States StateDepartment travel site. We will continue to monitor events and improvements in this area but at time we advise that all travelers exercise caution when visiting this region or other areas of Mexico. Due to recent events we strongly recommend staying within the confines of the resort accommodations to reduce the risk of serious injury or death, in the absence of adequate security protection.