Drug cartel violence has been a growing problem in Mexico for years, and only worsened by the illegal immigration crisis at the southern border during the past year. Now, the violence is spreading beyond large cities and the border region to tourist areas like the Mayan Riviera. In recent months, resort towns like Cancun and Tulum have seen a rise in drug and gang violence, as cartels battle for turf amidst vacationing tourists.
Tony Payan, Director of the Center for U.S. and Mexico at Rice's Baker Institute, says much of the blame for this spreading violence lies with the Mexican government. "I think the president of Mexico, (Andres Manuel) Lopez Obrador, really does not have a strategy to tackle organized crime in Mexico," he says. "As a consequence, organized crime has extended its reach well within Mexico and territories where it wasn't before...and that includes all the resorts where millions of Americans actually visit."
"One only wishes the (Lopez Obrador) administration woke up to the fact that the country is a mess, and that organized crime is conquering more and more territory, and more and more activities, within the country," Payan continues.
Despite the rise in violence, tourists have largely continued to flock to places like Cancun and Tulum. Payan advises caution if you're planning on a trip to Mexico. "We cannot fully recommend to people to just simply go without a good understanding of where they're going, what is safe to do, where it's safe to go, and not to do and to go," he tells KTRH. "They should check the State Department website for the latest information."