Two men have been killed in a popular beach bar in Tulum after armed assailants opened fire inside the restaurant. Although details are still forthcoming, the deaths have both been linked to organized crime and drug trafficking. A third man was injured in the shooting.
The attack took place at Art Beach Restaurant on Saturday night, with shots being reported at around 8:30 PM. The establishment is a popular upscale spot placed near the entrance to Tulum’s hotel zone. As many as 20 gunshots were heard from the premises.
A few unverified sources have also suggested bags of drugs were found at the scene.
Despite taking place on Saturday, the only added information that has been released was the age of the injured man, who was 24 years old. Initial reports suggest that the now-deceased men were having dinner when the attacker stormed in and shot them. Authorities have suggested the two men were drug traffickers and the attackers from a rival criminal group.
Currently, those responsible are still at large and the local police have begun searching for them.
The timing of the attacks is less than ideal for Quintana Roo who only just hosted the American FBI and DEA in a security summit last week. That meeting was prompted by the escalation in violence that’s been seen in the region over the past few months culminating in the shocking assassinations at Hotel Xcaret last month.
Similarly, two men were killed in broad daylight in the middle of the resort. Both men were directly linked to a Canadian-Vietnamese crime syndicate that was functioning in the region at the time. The summit was organized in the hope that shared intelligence regarding international crime groups could help to prevent this kind of event from happening again in the future. It’s unclear if this new incident was related to local gangs or larger groups with potentially internationally reaching influence like Xcaret.
Although the vast majority of the gang violence doesn’t directly affect tourists, there have been enough high-profile incidents in the past year for potential visitors to justifiably question their safety in the region.
The most tragic of the incidents also took place in Tulum and saw two tourists lose their life in a shootout between rival gangs at a popular restaurant. The visitors are never the targets, but an increase in violence and seemingly encroaching areas of contention always have the potential for them to be collateral damage.
These last few incidents have come even with the new presence of Quintana Roo’s tourist security battalion. The new 1500-strong branch of the Mexican National Guard was deployed back in November with the intention of discouraging any potential violence in the region. The soldiers have been seen patrolling the beaches in Tulum, Cancun, and other major hotspots in the state. Both of the most recent incidents have occurred directly in private establishments where the national guard is not patrolling.
It still should be said that statistically speaking, Tulum, Cancun, and all the big tourist areas in Quintana are very safe for visitors. The local government recently compared violent crime statistics in Cancun with those in cities like Paris and Las Vegas and showed that those typically “safer” cities actually pose a larger threat.
Of course, organized crime casts a more ominous shadow than more traditional crime statistics, and although the likelihood is small visitors have the right to feel intimated by these traumatic events. For this reason, the government is taking steps to try and secure the areas even further.
It is not an overnight process, but those hoping to travel to the region soon should do their best to remember that the overwhelming majority of visits to Cancun and beyond have a wonderful time with no problems. Cancun is sitting at the top of the world’s most popular destinations for good reason.
Travelers should also keep on top of any potential restrictions that may be brought back in. The green zone on Mexico’s epidemiological traffic light system begins on Monday the 21st of February for at least one week. Any changes will be announced on Thursday.
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