An Overview Of Dangers Of Drug Cartels In Cozumel
By Tom Seest
Cozumel may be a popular tourist destination, but tourists must still be wary of some potential hazards caused by drug cartels in the area.
As such, the State Department issued travel alerts for Cozumel and other popular spring break resorts for the first time – encouraging Americans to exercise caution when visiting Cozumel.
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Table Of Contents
Corruption in Mexico poses a grave threat to political stability, economic development, the rule of law, and efforts against organized crime as well as public services. Corruption also allows drug cartels to access illicit wealth while offering high-value bribes to corrupt officials to secure their cooperation and further expand illicit networks.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s campaign against corruption and money laundering offers an opportunity for progress against these daunting issues. However, it shows worrying trends such as politicizing investigations and protecting allies; its initiatives also center power without considering threats posed by cartels; this issue has been highlighted through recent US arrests of high-ranking Mexican security officials.
A recent federal trial in Mexico exposed how top government official Luis Garcia Luna used his position as a security officer to profit from fighting drug cartels in Mexico. Garcia Luna served as head of the police force until 2012, and witnesses report that he built relationships with drug cartel leaders through various means, collecting millions of dollars in bribes in return.
Garcia Luna traveled to Mexico’s Caribbean islands and met with cartel leaders from tourist spots such as Playa del Carmen and Tulum to negotiate security and trade deals, according to prosecutors. As part of these deals, Garcia Luna would allow gang members to wear police uniforms and badges while helping unload cargo at airports in Mexico City and other cities.
Testimony from former police and smugglers revealed that Garcia Luna received millions of dollars in bribes to serve as an intermediary for the Sinaloa Cartel, which long dominated Caribbean tourism. Garcia Luna was charged with eight counts of money laundering and three of conspiracy.
Garcia Luna was found guilty by a judge of taking up to $3 Million from drug traffickers as bribes in return for supporting and cooperating in high-profile security operations, according to court documents. Furthermore, Garcia Luna assisted drug shipments from Mexico City to Caribbean safe houses, which fuelled Sinaloa Cartel violence and was used by Sinaloa Cartel members as fuel.
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Traveling through Mexico requires being mindful of potential scams. Although these can be serious risks to your well-being and life, fortunately, there are a few key warnings you can look out for which may prevent falling prey to one during your stay there.
With Mayan Riviera being such a thriving tourist destination, it comes as no surprise that there are various taxi scams operating in this region. Most commonly, they take advantage of tourists by overcharging them – most commonly through Taxi Mafia operations which dominate much of the industry in this region.
If you’re traveling to the Mayan Riviera, it is recommended that you visit a reliable taxi stand and negotiate the cost of your ride before getting in the vehicle. Take note of your driver’s number so you can contact them if anything goes amiss.
TIP: While traveling in Mexico, take care when using public transportation and consider using ADO buses for an inexpensive means of travel.
Make sure to wear your seatbelt at all times when traveling alone – this will reduce the chance of being pulled over and robbed by authorities or strangers.
Drugs and Crime
Like most countries, Mexico presents you with the possibility of being approached by drug dealers who offer to sell you illegal substances. To stay out of trouble and stay clear of trouble spots, avoid accepting offers of help from them and say no if offered any offers of drug sales.
One online search will show that Playa del Carmen’s homicide rate has recently increased and that there have been multiple reports of shootouts between cartel gangs and tourists. While these instances may be rare, visitors should still exercise caution when in Playa del Carmen; should they become victims of crime, it’s crucial that they report it immediately to local law enforcement.
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Mexico’s resort towns have recently faced numerous difficulties: seaweed invasion on beaches, drug cartel activity threatening local areas, and violent crimes endangering tourists’ safety. Yet Quintana Roo remains one of the premier tourist spots.
Sargassum – the brown, smelly seaweed that forms between Africa and Brazil – has spread along ocean currents to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum beaches, polluting them. These areas make up part of the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, which extends along ocean currents from southern Africa into Brazil.
Sargassum tends to float in vast quantities along coastal areas and often causes an unpleasant smell that makes travel unpleasant for travelers.
Cozumel may not be immune from sargassum deposits, but its municipalities tend to be least affected thanks to a natural barrier on its western side and an abundance of freshwater resources.
Cozumel’s west-facing beaches boasting hotels such as Iberostar, Occidental, Secrets, El Presidente, Cozumel Palace Hotel B Coral Princess Westin with clear waters are never plagued with seaweed problems – making Cozumel an excellent all-inclusive vacation spot suitable for families as well as young adults seeking all-inclusive packages.
Cozumel draws visitors with its white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and peaceful environment, thus drawing many domestic tourists despite recent challenges to the island.
Visitors traveling to Quintana Roo are advised to utilize the Seaweed Report from Red de Monitoreo del Sargazo Cancun Facebook page as an aid for staying informed on seaweed conditions in Cancun, Playa del Carme, Riviera Maya and Cozumel. This non-profit group features engineers, biologists, and other specialists volunteering their services as monitoring experts.
Quintana Roo’s Navy Minister recently warned of an estimated 30,000 tonnes of seaweed, commonly known as Sargassum, floating around the Caribbean Sea. Their navy is working hard to prevent it from making it to beaches where it will wash up and will remove any which does land there.
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Cozumel Island in Mexico is actually quite safe for tourists despite some media reports about violence and kidnappings; its family-friendly attractions make it a fantastic option for relaxing vacationers as well.
Though Cozumel does have some crime, most are limited to interpersonal or domestic incidents or small-scale drug sales and use. Violent crime occurs more commonly nearer the border region (Baja California or areas where drug-related trading and turf wars discourage tourism).
But be wary. Allowing yourself to become seduced by drugs could end in tragedy; therefore, it is vital that any offers of drugs you encounter during your trip should be turned down immediately.
According to reports from Mexico’s government, the Sinaloa cartel has become weaker and is fighting back against rivals in Jalisco and other states. Anti-cartel operations conducted by Mexican authorities have resulted in hundreds of arrests and thousands of deaths over several months.
The Sinaloa cartel’s return has caused great alarm in Mexico as one of its most powerful criminal organizations. Their violent activity has resulted in thousands of deaths.
Cartels have also used violence and threats of violence against tourists and businesses – particularly hotels – as leverage to extract payments for services rendered, forcing many police officers and security agents to remain present in Tulum to prevent any possible acts of extortion from occurring.
There have been rare instances where drugs were offered to tourists at hotels or restaurants; usually, this comes with warnings of the risks involved with drug usage in Mexico as well as advice on how to avoid being caught with illegal substances.
Although Cozumel does not contain drug cartels, it’s wise to exercise extreme caution when walking alone at night. Do not disclose any personal information, such as your address or telephone number, to strangers. If any suspicious people approach you while out and about, notify the police immediately.
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