Cartel Chaos: Bloodshed Engulfs Mexico's Tourist Havens As Drug Lords Vie For Control

By Alan Hume | Saturday, 24 February 2024 01:00 AM
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In an alarming revelation, private investigator Jay Armes III has disclosed to Fox News Digital that four feuding Mexican drug cartels are engaging in ruthless killings to establish supremacy over an 80-mile stretch of resorts along the Caribbean coast.

Their objective is to exploit the country's lucrative $30 billion tourism industry.

In the ensuing violence, innocent bystanders, including Americans and international visitors, have been caught in the crossfire, witnessed horrific acts of violence, or have mysteriously vanished, according to Armes.

In recent weeks, the brutality has escalated. Cartel members have gruesomely dismembered rival gang members in the tourist hotspot of Cancun. An American woman from California was tragically killed in the crossfire near a popular beach in Tulum. A kidnapped New Yorker was abandoned in a secluded jungle, his eyes taped shut. These incidents, however, only represent a fraction of the violence that makes national headlines.

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Armes lamented, "It's all horrifying to us, but to people in Mexico, it's just a Tuesday. This happens all the time all over the country. But now it's happening in areas that used to be off limits."

Armes recalled a time, about 15 to 20 years ago, when cartel leaders adhered to a code of conduct akin to the Italian mob. This code prohibited targeting women or children, encroaching on another cartel's territory, and disturbing the peace in resort areas. The cartels aimed to operate discreetly to avoid attracting attention.

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However, the murder of a foreigner, particularly an American, in a tourist area would prompt immediate action from the Mexican government, military, and law enforcement. The government was keen to safeguard the tourism industry, which has been the country's legal economic backbone for decades.

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In 2022 alone, Mexico welcomed 66 million international visitors, including nearly 34 million U.S. tourists, as reported by Mexico's Ministry of Tourism and Statista, respectively. Most of these tourists arrived via Cancun International Airport, which received 36.1% of all incoming flight passengers, according to a January report by travelinglifestyle.net.

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However, these once serene white sand beaches have now become battlegrounds for the cartels. Armes stated, "The rules have changed. All that old guard code is out the window. The resorts are open shop."

The influx of travelers, attracted by travel bloggers and social media influencers, has presented the cartels with an unprecedented number of potential victims or customers. Armes explained, "Who we see as tourists are potential customers or potential victims to the cartels. Even if it's 1% or 5% (of tourists to the resort areas), that's millions of customers and a big chunk of business."

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Four primary cartels are vying for control of these areas. These include El Chapo's old cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel; the Gulf Cartel; the Jalisco New Generation Cartel; and the Grupo Regional, a "smaller" cartel formed by former Zetas, notoriously violent cartel enforcers.

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Armes noted, "With all these young kids coming up (through the cartel ranks), there's no respect for anything. It's become a free-for-all." Consequently, tourists are becoming victims of robberies, sex trafficking, or are inadvertently caught in the crossfire.

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The tragic fate of 44-year-old Los Angeles native Niko Honarbakhsh, who was killed along with a drug dealer from Belize, is a case in point. The Quintana Roo State Attorney General’s Office reported that the dealer had cocaine and other drugs in his possession at the time of his death.

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Armes contrasted this incident with the public execution of men in Cancun, stating, "That was violence among drug traffickers. That was a very public killing that was meant to be a warning. When they leave the bodies to be found in the trunk of a car, inside a car on the street, in a public place hanging from a bridge, a cartel is sending a message to a rival cartel or put fear into the politicians."

The Mayan ruins in the Mexican state of Chiapas, a popular tourist destination about 700 miles east of the Caribbean Coast resorts near the Guatemalan border, have been virtually cut off due to cartel violence, as admitted by the Mexican government, according to a Jan. 27 report by The Associated Press.

Two tourist guides in Chiapas, speaking anonymously, told the AP that two other sites claimed by the Mexican government to be open to visitors can only be accessed by passing through drug gang checkpoints.

The government and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have been downplaying gang violence. However, since December, about 5% of trips booked for the area have been canceled by tourists.

Armes criticized politicians for denying or downplaying the escalating violence, arguing that this approach essentially grants the cartels immunity. He concluded, "Politicians pretending people aren't being killed at an exponential rate or downplaying the violence is a major component of the entangled, complex web in Mexico that basically gives the cartels immunity."

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