By CHRISTINA COULTER and ADRIANO TORRES
December 6, 2021
Beachcombers saw bootprints alongside seashells on Sunday in Cancún as Mexico‘s National Guard joined sunbathers oceanside to protect resort-goers from a rolling wave of cartel violence that has claimed the lives of at least two tourists.
A battalion of about 1,500 soldiers made their way into the Quintana Roo tourist towns of Isla Mujeres, Solidaridad, Puerto Morelos and Tulum on Wednesday and began patrolling beaches and streets on Thursday.
Striking photos showed them armed and in fatigues under the hot sun, in stark contrast with scantily-clad sunbathers dressed down for the 82 degree weather.
The National Guard’s Tourist Security Battalion was introduced by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on November 17 following shootings that tarnished the region’s image, including the murders of two female tourists – one of whom lived in San Jose, California.
‘It is too little, too late,’ said Robert Almonte, an expert on international criminal organizations, in a phone interview with DailyMail.com on Friday.
A team of 15 hired assassins murdered two rival drug dealers on a beach next to the Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancún in Puerto Morelos on November 4. The broad daylight assault forced tourists and workers to seek refuge in the hotel before the armed gang escaped on speedboats.
An October 20 shootout between two gangs involved in a turf war claimed the lives of Anjali Ryoy, a 25-year-old Indian national who resided in California, and 35-year-old German national Jennifer Henzold, at the La Malquerida bar in Tulum. Two German men and a woman from the Netherlands were also wounded.
On June 11, a 30-year-old woman visiting from Kentucky was shot and wounded after assassins arrived at a Cancún beach on jet skis and killed two workers inside a gift shop.
‘Tourists have been getting killed or assaulted at the resorts for some time now and it wasn’t until lately that the president decided to create this special unit to specifically address the resort area,’ said Almonte, a former U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas and retired deputy chief with the El Paso Police Department.
At least 21,495 people had died as of September in violent incidents linked to criminal organizations, according to government data.
The state of Quintana Roo, which has a population of around 1.9 million people, reported a minor decrease in murders between January and September, registering 442 homicides compared with 463 in the same period last year.
However, the killings have not deterred tourists from booking their vacation stays at resorts in the region, whose stunning beaches and warm waters attract nearly 20 million visitors a year.
Benito Juárez mayor Mara Lezama welcomed the deployment throughout Cancún and the neighboring cities.
‘It’s a great day, a historic day on the issue of preventing crime and security,’ she said, as quoted by Excelsior newspaper.
Almonte assured that the presence of the National Guard will help going forward, but it will not be enough stop the criminal organizations from operating and going after their rival targets.
‘The bottom line is these cartels are ruthless,’ Almonte said. ‘They are not going to let the presence of the national guardsmen deter them from executing their hit, from killing someone. And they’re not careful when they do that. So they’re spraying bullets and the result of that is innocent bystanders, tourists are killed.’