Mexican Riviera Maya amid drug violence

Quintana Roo is the favorite destination of Mexico, the sixth most visited country in the world, only in 2017 the state received 16.9 million tourists. And the sounds of the Caribbean Sea and its turquoise blue water have been disrupted by the roar of bullets and red blood in the Riviera Maya, the jewel of Mexican tourism.

Violence for two years afflicts the Quintana Roo area. Photo: Playa del Carmen (from Pixabay)
Violence for two years afflicts the Quintana Roo area. Photo: Playa del Carmen (from Pixabay)

The natural beauties of cities such as Cancún, Tulúm and Playa del Carmen are a magnet for visitors, but they have also turned these places into the objects of desire of criminal groups that seek control.

Alberto Capella Ibarra, Secretary of Security of Quintana Roo, admitted that one of the most solid lines of research on the events that took place in the bar "Las Virginias" is a dispute related to drug dealing.

Reports from the Ministry of the Interior and the National Security Commission have documented that four infamous Mexican cartels operate in the Mexican Caribbean.

The Sinaloa Cartel, disputes the control of the sale of drugs and extortion with the Jalisco Nueva Generacion Cartel that has gained ground in the most recent years under the mandate of Nemesio Osegera Cervantes alias "El Mencho". The Zetas and the Gulf Cartel also seek a "slice of the cake" in the destination frequented by domestic and foreign tourists.

In 2017, a shootout took the lives of five young people at the Blue Parrot discotheque in Playa del Carmen. A conflict between the Zetas and an antagonistic group resulted in a revenge that marked a before and after in the town.

Before that event, places like Playa del Carmen were peaceful medium-sized populations, but their population growth has been accompanied by an abrupt increase in high-impact crimes.

Figures of Criminal Incidence of the Mexican Common Law indicated that homicides increased by 600% in one year. They went from 100 in 2017 to 688 between January and November 2018. The murder rate rose from 8 to 17.55 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Cancun is among the Mexican cities with the highest perception of insecurity in the country. 84.9% of the population feels insecure according to the National Survey of Urban Public Safety (ENSU) of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).

The influence of the cartels has been underpinned by the birth of local gangs that serve as an armed wing for their purposes. La Barredora, El Basurero and Los Pelones, are some of the groups that devastate the population.

Organizations of hoteliers and restaurateurs of Cancun have made a call for help to the authorities to address the issue urgently.

Acapulco, the destination par excellence a few decades ago, went from being one of the pillars of international tourism to one of the most dangerous cities in the world with more than 100 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, among other circumstances due to the dispute between drug gangs. In the opinion of analysts, what happened with that Pacific city is a warning for other tourist destinations such as Cancun.

The state authorities recognize that the controversy between members of organized crime is compounded by the porosity of the municipal police, which are often corrupted. That is why they have proposed a unique command strategy to coordinate their actions, but they have encountered resistance from some municipalities such as Playa del Carmen.

Locals and visitors have placed the nickname of "Playa del Crimen" to Playa del Carmen, as a sad irony of what happens, but also with the hope that one day the peaceful nights will return.