The Forms Have Been Met With Some Discomfort Among Tourists
Hotels in Cancun and the rest of Quintana Roo are now requiring guests to sign a form upon check-in, acknowledging that they are aware of Mexico’s drug laws and the punishment that awaits any who breaks them. The form is part of a new government initiative to help tackle the drug problem in the area.
The Government announced several weeks ago that it would begin a new anti-drug initiative geared at incoming tourists. An uptick in organized crime violence has been directly linked to the growing number of tourists in the area. Visitors generally tend to be the main market for many of the drug dealers, turning Quintana Roo into valuable territory for those controlling the substances.
The program is multifaceted and tourists are faced with it almost immediately upon entry to the country. Posters and flyers are posted and distributed highlighting some of the potential consequences of participating in the drug industry. Some posters lead with threats of turning a temporary visit into a permanent one – ie, you’ll be put in jail. Others show the feet of a dead person in a morgue, and a message suggesting that the “fun” might kill you.
But the most recent development that is causing some distress is the new form being issued at check-in.
The form mainly states the legal repercussions of being caught in some capacity with drugs. According to Quintana Roo law, possession without intent to supply or trade comes with a jail sentence of ten months to three years. In theory, this would be the scenario in that most tourists would find themselves.
If someone is caught in possession with intent to trade or supply, the sentence is between 3 and 6 years. Being caught trading, supplying, transporting, or trafficking drugs carries an extremely serious 4 to 7.5 years in prison.
Drugs continue to be a problem, especially with the younger crowds partying in the area. Evidence that drug dealers function in sophisticated systems in clubs and bars has been found in recent years. Some bars and clubs may even allow the selling of drugs, going as far as to have a “menu” for customers to look at while they are in the establishment.
The head of the Riviera Maya Hotel Association, Toni Chavez, said,
“One of the problems is the sale of drugs on beaches and clubs. What we want is to make tourists aware that, first, this is not a destination or country where you can come to consume drugs without legal repercussion, and that, with all due respect, there is a supply of the product because there is demand“
It’s for this reason that the Government is trying to aim for shock value. Those coming to Mexico with the sole purpose of taking drugs are most likely going to do it anyway. But faced with sudden and shocking understandings of the consequences, those who may be tempted but are not there for drugs alone may be dissuaded.
Mexico has the image problem of being a place where one can do many things not legally allowed in the US. It’s a misguided notion and Mexico has several laws that are more strict than the US. With so many visiting under this misconception, problems are bound to arise.
The drug problem in Quintana Roo is complicated. The more tourists arrive, the better the economy, but also the stronger the drug trade. The strange irony of tourists creating the drug problem is that it also keeps them relatively safe. In much the same way as a normal business would operate, organized criminals gain nothing from endangering their biggest market.
Cancun and the rest of the state are working hard to secure the region. The forms and wider initiatives rolling out right now may have some strong effects on visitors, along with the added security in place. But in the long term, the drug problem will continue to rear its head in the region, and the Government will need to find a way to lessen its effects.
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