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Are tourists at risk? Cancun murders spike as drug cartels wage a bloody turf war

Soldiers walk inside Plaza Las Americas mall following reports of gunfire in Cancun, Mexico, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. Gunmen attacked the state prosecutor's office in this Caribbean resort city Tuesday, ratcheting up tensions just a day after a deadly shooting at a music festival in a nearby town.
Soldiers walk inside Plaza Las Americas mall following reports of gunfire in Cancun, Mexico, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. Gunmen attacked the state prosecutor's office in this Caribbean resort city Tuesday, ratcheting up tensions just a day after a deadly shooting at a music festival in a nearby town. Associated Press

Paradise has been overrun by violence.

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico has recently been transformed into one of the bloodiest high-profile battlegrounds in a turf war between drug cartels.

Cancun, the party town on the beaches of the southeastern state of Quintana Roo, played host to 14 murders in one 36-hour span starting April 4, according to a translated version of a story from Mexican news outlet Notacaribe. Nine of the 14 were killed on April 4, making it the bloodiest single day in Cancun in more than a decade.

Six separate incidents accounted for the 14 deaths and left five others with gunshot wounds. The murder rates in Cancun have doubled in the past year, according to the New York Post, which reported that 113 people have been killed in the erstwhile hotspot so far in 2018.

Notacaribe reported that early April has been the bloodiest spell in Cancun since March of 2013, a surge highlighted by hit men executing seven people inside the bar La Sirenita.

CancunMap
Map locator where violence has escalated again in Cancun, Mexico. Staff TNS



Most of the deaths appear to have been drug related. The Sun reported that one woman’s body was found face down in a street near a resort, her face mutilated after apparently being beaten to death. “Narcomanta,” which translates to “drug cloth” was left on her body with a message that read (translated), “Go to hell.”

In a separate incident, five others were found dead inside the same home. Neighbors told Notacaribe that the deceased were involved in drug sales for years.

According to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico’s latest travel advisory, the state of Quintana Roo was not designated any more dangerous than the bulk of the nation, but that advisory was published on March 16. Quintana Roo was designated a Level 2 threat, with visitors urged to “exercise increased caution.”

The states of Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas were listed as “do not travel” states.

News.com.au reported that the increased level of recent violence in the resort town probably is due to the escalated turf war between a group of alleged gunmen loyal to Leticia “Dona Lety” Rodriguez Lara, who has ties to El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel, and the rival cartel, Los Zetas. Lara was a former federal police officer before she allegedly started running the drug gang. She was arrested in August.

The two cartels, seeing opportunity in the U.S. market, have started to switch from growing marijuana to harvesting opium poppies for the manufacture of heroin, according to USA Today.

Mexico’s brutal Sinaloa cartel used a small South Florida gold business to launder nearly $100 million in cocaine profits. Here’s how they did it.

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