Violence in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Los Cabos threaten Mexico’s tourism industry

(USA TODAY) — PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico — Tourists taking the ferry from this tourist town to the island of Cozumel now walk down a wharf lined with police, heavily armed soldiers and bomb-sniffing dogs.

Those safeguards came after a Feb. 21 explosion ripped through one of the ferries, injuring 24 people, including five Americans. Explosives were later found on another ferry owned by the same company.

“It’s something that makes you feel safer,” Roberto Cintrón, president of the Cancún hotel owners’ association, said about the soldiers and security after a recent ferry ride to Cozumel. “It’s the complete opposite situation of the insecurity many people think of.”

Numerous reports about crime and tourist tragedies have made recent headlines as the violence plaguing this country erupts in cities popular with foreign visitors.

Incidents causing concern in Cancún and outlying Quintana Roo state range from bars allegedly serving adulterated liquor to unsuspecting tourists to police targeting visitors in rental cars for bribes.

A vacationing Iowa family of four was found dead March 23 in a condo in Tulum on the Caribbean coast. Authorities suspect the cause was a gas leak from a faulty water heater

Violence in resort cities such as Cancún, Playa del Carmen (in Quintana Roo state) and Los Cabos resembles the rest of the country, but it threatens Mexico’s lucrative tourism industry.

“The common thread in Los Cabos and Quintana Roo is the public security system had been totally dismantled,” said Francisco Rivas, director of the National Citizen Observatory, which monitors security issues in Mexico. “There were prosecutor’s offices that didn’t investigate and police that couldn’t prevent or react to crime.”

Analysts offer a variety of explanations for the rising crime across Mexico, from drug cartels to the U.S. opioid crisis prompting cartels to switch from growing marijuana to producing heroin.

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