Violence in Mexico’s Tourism Epicenter Points to Cartel Conflict

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A recent wave of violence in Mexico’s most important tourism corridor has sparked fears about new conflicts between drug cartels seeking to gain control over the area.

In recent months, the eastern tip of the Yucatán peninsula — home to the famous resort cities of Cancún and Playa del Carmen — has been affected by a series of violent outbreaks.

The most recent occurred on the afternoon of January 16, when an armed group attacked the Quintana Roo state prosecutor’s office in Cancún, killing four people. This occurred just hours after a shootout during an event at the Blue Parrot bar in Playa del Carmen, where five people died.

A few days after the incident at the bar, four “narcobanners” appeared in Playa del Carmen, in which the Zetas crime group took credit for the attack at the Blue Parrot and threatened to attack members of the Gulf Cartel as well as local groups like “Los Pelones” and “Los Chapulines,” Proceso reported.  

“This is a sign that we’re here. It was because you didn’t get in line, Phillip BPM,” the banners read, referring to the founder of the event that took place at the bar. “It is the beginning. We’re going to cut off the heads of the Gulf Cartel, Pelones and Chapulines.”

On the other hand, Animal Político reported that local authorities had already detected the presence of the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG), to which they attributed a nightclub shootout in November last year, as well as the Sinaloa Cartel.

InSight Crime Analysis

With as many as four cartels operating in Quintana Roo, the southern state is especially prone to violence. Confrontations tend to increase when two or more criminal groups attempt to take control of the same “plaza.”

The Gulf Cartel has reportedly maintained the greatest level of control in the state since at least 2013. The Zetas, their traditional rivals, have been weakened in recent years and have lost territory across the country. However, if they have begun to consolidate their presence in Quintana Roo, it is possible that violence may escalate.

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The CJNG could also be a key player in this territorial dispute. Currently, it is the criminal group that has expanded in the most aggressive manner and it seems to have become one of the most violent organizations in the country. Its dispute with the Sinaloa Cartel in Baja California, for example, has resulted in a rise in homicides in major cities like Tijuana.

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