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Mexico drug cartel violence hits tourist hotspots of Cancun and Los Cabos

In January, a lone gunman entered the trendy Blue Parrot nightclub in the upscale Mexican resort city of Playa del Carmen and opened fire. Chaos ensued as the crowd scrambled for cover as the gunman traded shots with another guy inside the club and safety working the yearly BPM music festival strove to suppress the melee.

When the bullets stopped flying in what is believed to be a medication cartel-related gunfight, five people were dead like a Canadian bodyguard caught in the crossfire and an American teenager who was trampled to death as panicked partiers fled at the club.

On Sunday, sunbathing tourists were forced to take cover on the white sand beaches of Los Cabos a favorite escape in the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula since gunmen unloaded and left three people dead.

These two incidents bookended a bloody eight weeks for the resort towns of both of Mexicos coast, heightening concerns that the countrys continuing drug war could render more tourists dead and undermine Mexicos multibillion dollar tourism sector.

Were in a span of disequilibrium and it will take a while to return to balance, Christopher Wilson, the deputy director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told Fox News.

In Quintana Roo, the Mexican country that is home to both Cancún and Playa del Carmen, the government has recorded 134 homicides this year, and this is nearly equal to the 165 the state saw in the entirety of 2016. The Benito Juárez municipality, which includes Cancún, has already surpassed last decades homicide total of 89 as it finished June using 95 murders and at neighboring Solidaridad has registered 21 slaying through June, closing in on last years total of 26. In Los Cabos, homicides in the famed beach area are up 400 percent this year.

Even the U.S State Department, that last updated its Travel Warning for Mexico last December, cautioned travelers of the risks of travel in Baja California, but so far doesn’t have advisory for Quintana Roo.

Mexicos drug war, which began in earnest in 2006 when then-President Felipe Calderón declared an all-out army offensive about the countrys narcrotraffickers, has left at least 200,000 dead. While current President Enrique Peña Nieto came into office in 2012 at time when violence was on the decrease, the bloodshed continues and in June the country saw a record amount of killings with the 2,566 homicides sufferers being the most in a month since the Mexican government started releasing that data in 2014.

The overall rise in violence in Mexico is due to the extradition of “Chapo” Guzmán.

– Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center

The skyrocketing demand for heroin in the United States due to the opioid emergency cartels are believed to make somewhere better $19 and $29 billion annually from the U.S. drug market and the splintering of big drug trafficking organizations after the arrests or deaths of the leaders are believed to be the principal factors behind the spike in violence in areas like Cancún and Los Cabos.

The arrest and extradition of Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán to the United States has created a huge power struggle inside the Sinaloa Cartel, after the countrys largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization, and is believed to be the primary reason for violence combined Mexicos Pacific coast. Disparate factions of the Sinaloa Cartel, along the climbing Cartel Jalisco Nuevo Generación, are also known to be more active in Quintana Roo.

The overall rise in violence in Mexico is due to the extradition of Chapo Guzmán, ” Wilson explained. Simply because of inner unlawful group dynamics there’s a natural waxing and waning of violence. The 1 constant is that there’s no governmental structure to react effectively and until that is executed these kinds of flare-ups will continue to happen.

Mexicos tourism officials are undeniably worried about the spike in killings and the accompanying bad press. Tourism is the fourth largest source of foreign exchange for Mexico, together with visitors doling out an estimated $20 billion annually to pay a visit to the countrys shores, clubs and famed archeological ruins.

Drug war violence has already turned one of those countrys preeminent tourist hotspots, Acapulco, into one of the countrys most dangerous cities with dead bodies being hung from bridges, individual minds being abandoned at coolers outside city hall and shootouts occurring at posh hotels.

At least in regards to Cancún and other Caribbean resort towns, nevertheless, both Mexican officials and external experts attest that although violent crime might be rising there’s little chance of it reaching the endemic levels seen in Acapulco and other towns across the countrys Pacific Coast home to the traditional trafficking routes used by the cartels.

“Tourist safety continues to be a constant priority for the authorities,” Daniel Flota Ocampo, director of Riviera Maya Tourist Promotion, told USA Today, adding that the violence is between “criminal classes settling scores among themselves” and that authorities are taking action against them. He also noted that the majority of the violence has happened far from the comprehensive resorts frequented by tourists.

For the time being, it appears that the violence has not discouraged tourists from vacationing along Mexicos coasts. Occupancy rates at hotels in Cancún are in 90 percent and 74 percent in Los Cabos.

Mexico also found a record 35 million international travelers see the country a year – a 9 percent jump in contrast to 2015. The Mexico Tourism Board intends to reach 50 million global visitors by 2021.

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