In part of a wider effort by the Mexican government to control violence in tourist areas across the country, the military has been called into the beaches of Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
More than 8,000 soldiers representing the National Guard, the Marines, and the Army have been stationed at tourist hotspots in Mexico to maintain order during the Easter holiday.
While most of the troops will be patrolling beach cities, there will also be a military presence along highways and in airports and bus stations.
According to the Mexican Secretary of Defense, Luis Cresencio Sandoval, military helicopters, trucks, and boats will be deployed as part of the operation.
Violence In Tourist Hotspots
This news comes shortly after high-profile shootings in the famous beach paradises of Acapulco and Cancun resulted in 8 deaths and made international headlines.
In Cancun, a shooting in front of the Fiesta Americana Condesa Hotel resulted in four deaths. It should be noted, however, that these deaths were not tourists and were likely the result of rival drug dealers fighting.
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As a response to the shootings, the National Tourism Business Council (CNET) demanded government action.
The organization asked that the government “ensure that the tourist destinations of the country be spaces of personal, social, and patrimonial security so that the local population and the national and international tourists can visit.”
“The country and the tourism destinations should not and cannot continue living in an environment of violence and insecurity,” said CNET.
Tourists and locals alike have been the victim of the lack of security in Mexican beach cities. At the end of March, an American teenager was shot in the leg while vacationing in Cancun.
Tourism Continues Despite Violence
Despite the international headlines, tourists continue to flock to Cancun and other beaches along the Mexican Caribbean.
According to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Cancun is full of American tourists.
The numbers back him up. Cancun hotels remain filled to 80% capacity, and the beaches remain packed with people.
At a press conference, President López Obrador decried the media and the United States government for their representation of the security situation in Mexico, claiming that the reality was something else entirely.
The President cited high tourism rates as evidence that Mexico remains a safe destination for tourists. He also pointed to statistics saying federal crime has decreased by 30%, kidnapping has decreased by 64%, and intentional homicide has decreased by 11%.
He admitted that homicide rates in the country are high but pointed out that 70% of homicide is related to organized crime. President López Obrador and other Mexican politicians have claimed that most violence in the country is confined to organized crime and does not affect tourists or average citizens.
Governor of Quintana Roo Maria Lezama has also downplayed the threat of organized crime to tourists.
According to Governor Lezama, 0.000002% of tourists in her state are affected by the insecurity caused by organized crime.
She claims that the media coverage and warnings from the United States government are attempts by special interests in the United States to keep tourists at home.
The Pressure Is On
Despite attempts by politicians like President López Obrador and Governor Lezama, the security situation has begun to worry locals and tourists alike.
David Grigoryan is an American who was visiting Cancun at the time of the shooting outside the Fiesta Americana Condesa Hotel.
A long-time Cancun traveler, David said that he “was never one who really cared” about media reports about violence in Cancun or travel warnings.
But, “seeing it happen… literally feet in front of you, kind of makes you rethink a little bit,” he said.
The United States government has the state at a level 2 advisory suggesting only that travelers should “exercise increased caution” in the state, the same advice it gives Americans visiting France and the United Kingdom.
Nevertheless, the pressure is on Mexican politicians to provide stability for its citizens and visitors alike.
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