Move over spring breakers and snorkel-sporting seniors, Playa del Carmen has a new kind of tourist in town: a sun-kissed bad hombre with a penchant for piña coladas and pistols. Javier Abdiel “El Fantasma” N, a 27-year-old Panamanian with a resume that reads like a narco telenovela, swapped balmy beaches for bulletproof vests and traded his tropical tan for the cool steel of a jail cell this January.
El Fantasma, as his less-than-friendly moniker suggests, wasn't here to soak up the rays and sip tequila sunrises. No, this phantom of a criminal was allegedly aiming to cast a shadow over the Riviera Maya, plotting to transplant his gang, the charmingly named “Los Terroristas,” onto Mexican soil. Think of it as a bad vacation rental deal, except instead of sand fleas and leaky pipes, you get kidnappings and contract killings. Not exactly the brochure paradise we're used to.