New Security Force Was Announced Last Month
The New Mexican Tourist Security Battalion officially began work this week in Cancun. The 1500 strong force is dispersed across Tulum, Benito Juárez, Isla Mujeres, Solidaridad, and Puerto Morelos. It is reported that around 750 of them will be patrolling Cancun, with the remaining number split elsewhere.
Originally announced in mid-November, the move was taken as a safeguard for visitors in the wake of a few violent gang related incidents that left two tourists dead and several others injured. Although its primary function seems to be as a safeguard for the tourism industry, it is hoped that it will give some peace of mind to the local population in turn.
A welcome ceremony was held in Playa del Carmen on Thursday, where the battalion toured the surrounding area before getting to work. Guardsmen were spotted patrolling the beaches and streets around tourist hotspots later that day.
There are reported to be around 60 units being utilized in the force, and the teams are being specially trained for the unique circumstances surrounding their placement. As well as their traditional national guard training, the soldiers will also be receiving tourist proximity training, where they will learn to recognize the boundaries that must be set between them and visitors to the area.
Although the sight of armed soldiers walking down the beach may be intimidating to some, reports suggest that the force was welcomed strongly by tourists and local businesses alike. Many beach revelers were seen taking photos with patrolling soldiers.
It is hoped that the presence of the battalion will deter any potentially violent criminal activity in the area. Although tourists were never the direct target of the two recent incidents, the collateral damage caused was catastrophic for some.
The pleasant reception gives hope for the program, which is being proposed to be implemented in other tourist spots across the country. Careful monitoring of the situation so as to gauge its success will determine where and when this may happen.
According to Luis Cresencio Sandoval González, the National Defense Secretary, the battalion will also play a crucial role in intelligence, which could be viewed as an even bigger tool in the deescalation of any potential violence. He said, “We need that in a tourist area. It’s not the force that is seen in the first place, but the intelligence that is generated that will lead to actions in a very coordinated, very clean manner without generating a violent effect in the area”.
He also stated that the National Intelligence Agency will be heavily involved with a specialized team dedicated to the area to help coordinate operations.
It’s an important time for the tourist industry in the region as new developments intended to bolster the sector push onwards. The new Tulum airport, as well as the Maya Railway system are in the works, and set to increase what are already impressive numbers for the area.
It should be interesting to note that despite any unrest in the region, tourist numbers have remained stable and in some cases increased.
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