Politics: Violence and public insecurity pose risks of crisis in tourist areas

MEXICO - Report 15 Nov 2021 by Guillermo Valdes and Francisco González

Crime-fueled violence continues to plague Mexico, with around 3,000 killings per month. With the growth in organized crime and drug cartels, their presence along with the associated violence and killings, has also intensified and spread to different parts of the country. Examples of this progressive appropriation of geographical areas, institutions, and indiscriminate and unconstrained violence include criminal control in northern Mexico along the highway linking Monterrey to the border city of Nuevo Laredo; the pressure on elected officials in Northern Baja California and Coahuila to dissuade them from bringing the different public security forces together under a single command structure; a massacre at a bar in Michoacán, an attack on a nightclub in Acapulco, and more recently, a shootout at a luxury resort beach in Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo; and battles for control over municipalities in the Guadalajara metropolitan area, the product of conflicts between rival cartels.

What is relatively new and a major cause for concern has been the high-impact violence in tourist areas, especially in the Riviera Maya. This has a national impact beyond its political and public security implications given the major role played by southeast Mexican resort areas such as Cancún in the country’s tourism industry and its spill-over effect on the rest of the economy. The tourist areas in the state of Quintana Roo account for 12.8% of total tourist arrivals, 3.5% of domestic tourists and a whopping 47.9% of all international visitors.
If the growing wave of violence is not controlled and it keeps tourists away, this could easily trigger a major economic crisis in Quintana Roo, which depends on tourism revenue, and it could significantly affect the country’s image internationally.

One obstacle to addressing the problem has been President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s insistence that public security forces should not attack or respond to organized crime and that the presence of the newly created National Guard is merely dissuasive. Not surprisingly, this has resulted, on one hand, in a rise in the presence of and violence by organized crime and on the other, in a feeling among the population that they are not being adequately protected by the authorities.

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