These irregular establishments were making up to 50,000 dollars daily
According to local authorities, drug dealers and criminal organizations were using massage tents as façades to sell drugs in Playa del Carmen and Cancun.
The Coordinator of the Citizen Security and Justice Board in Quintana Roo, Marco Erosa Cárdenas, informed during a virtual transmission that irregular establishments have been removed from beaches like Playa Gaviota and Tortugas, after noticing that these were being used for illegal activities.
Erosa Cárdenas explained the authorities’ discovery: “A number of businesses that seemed harmless, such as areas where they offered massage services, also offered tourists a number of illegal services.”
The coordinator also explained the criminal’s behavior and said: “They dress like people who offer tourist services and also contact them by water on jet skis. The main problem is drug use and these places are a huge market for these organizations.”
These illegal establishments —that also include jet ski, palapas, and sunshade rentals— were registering about 1,000,000 Mexican pesos —around 50,000 dollars— in daily profits.
Tourist Must Stay Alert
Local authorities have been dismantling these criminal organizations. According to police statements, their main target audience is tourists from the United States, Canada, and Germany.
Erosa Cárdenas also explained that besides drug sales, they are worried about increasing cases of child prostitution in the region of Quintana Roo. “Cleaning” these irregular establishments from public beaches is a way to weaken criminal gangs.
The local police already removed setups, tents, and other illegal structures related to illegal activities from public beaches. Most of the locations where crime organizations were selling drugs had been placed in Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum.
The U.S. Department of State recently issued a safety warning for Cancun and Mexico. In the report, the government mentioned: “U.S. citizens should exercise increased caution in the downtown areas of Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and Tulum after dark.”
Both governments are aware of the increasing criminal activities in Quintana Roo and urge tourists to stay alert and avoid risky situations. Staying informed is one of the best ways to prevent scams, theft, or even indirectly participating in illicit activities.
Considerations Before Visiting Quintana Roo
Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum are top destinations for many US and Canadian citizens during spring break and summer. Those travelers interested in visiting Quintana Roo, should stay up to date with news and remain alert during their visits.
Despite the warning and worrying news, the Quintana Roo state government considers that Cancun is safer than destinations like Paris and Las Vegas according to statistics. Authorities presented a graph showing that out of 13 million tourists in the area in 2021, only 3 deaths and 5 injuries were registered.
Also, regarding COVID-19, Cancun and Quintana Roo have remained in the green zone, the safe level on Mexico’s epidemiological traffic light system. Covid cases have decreased and masks are no longer mandatory.
However, travelers should always bear in mind the main recommendations from local and international institutions when visiting Quintana Roo, like:
- Stay cautious when visiting downtown areas of Cancun, Tulum, or Playa del Carmen at night.
- Avoid dangerous activities, especially those related to drugs. Marijuana—even medical— is illegal in Mexico. U.S. citizens have reported being seriously ill after consuming synthetic drugs or adulterated prescription pills.
- Leave as soon as possible from potentially dangerous situations.
- Stay up to date with local restrictions and home country travel rules.
- Make sure health insurance covers Mexico or buy a travel insurance plan and, when possible, confirm medical costs in advance.
- Drink responsibly, try to stay in groups, and seek medical attention if you feel ill.
- Call 911 in case of emergency.
- Obey Mexican law.
- Keep family and friends informed of travel plans, especially when traveling alone.
- Download the “Guest Assist” application if traveling to Cancun, Cozumel, Tulum, or Playa del Carmen.
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