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American tourists getting hurt in crossfire as drug cartels vie for control of Mexico’s lucrative tourism industry

  Popular tourist resorts in Mexico have turned into "war zones" as at least four Mexican drug cartels  have begun indiscriminatel...

 Popular tourist resorts in Mexico have turned into "war zones" as at least four Mexican drug cartels have begun indiscriminately killing at or near these tourist destinations to assert dominance, leading to more innocent travelers getting hurt in the crossfire.

The Sinaloa Cartel, the Gulf Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Grupo Regional, a smaller gang created by members of the now-defunct Los Zetas Cartel, have begun murdering innocents to assert dominance over an 80-mile stretch of resorts in the Mexican Caribbean coast.  

Mexico‘s picturesque resorts along this region were once thought to be safe from all kinds of crime. In the last two weeks of February alone, it has been reported that several people from the United States have witnessed acts of gruesome violence or were even targeted by cartel members.

A California woman was killed in the crossfire near Tulum beach, while a man from New York was abducted with his eyes taped closed and dumped in a jungle.

Private investigator Jay Armes III reported that cartels are changing the rules of how criminals conduct their activities. Previously, they were said to abide by a "code similar to the Italian mob." But now, "it's happening in areas that used to be off limits," including tourist destinations.

"In the old days, you weren't allowed to target women or children. You weren't allowed to encroach on another cartel's territory. And the resorts were off-limits. Cartels wanted to fly under the radar as much as they could," said Armes. "The rules have changed. All that old guard code is out the window. The resorts are open shop."

Cartels vying for access to billions in tourism revenue

Armes reported that control over tourism on the Caribbean coast could give cartels access to the more than $30 billion in tourism revenue these resorts bring in annually.

"Who we see as tourists are potential customers or potential victims to the cartels," said Armes. "Even if it's one percent or five percent [of tourists], that's millions of customers and a big chunk of business."

“It’s all horrifying to us, but to people in Mexico, it’s just a Tuesday. This happens all the time all over the country,” he said. “But now it’s happening in areas that used to be off limits.”

Recent incidents underscore the crisis: machete-wielding cartel members gruesomely killing their rivals in Cancun, a tourist mecca; a Californian woman tragically caught and killed in the crossfire near Tulum’s popular beaches; and a harrowing story of a New York man found abducted, eyes taped shut, abandoned in a remote jungle.

The acts of violence against foreigners, particularly American tourists, have sparked rapid and "mandatory" responses from Mexican authorities, Armes said. With an economy deeply dependent on tourism, government and military leaders are under pressure to maintain the facade of safety in areas that millions of international visitors flock to for their vacations.

In 2022, Mexico welcomed some 66 million international tourists, nearly 34 million from the United States alone, as per data from Mexico's Ministry of Tourism and Statista. Cancun International Airport, the most frequently used entry point, saw 36.1 percent of all international arrivals in Mexico, with travelers seeking the serenity of the country’s renowned white sand beaches, often unaware of the potential dangers lying beneath the surface.

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