Tropical resorts popular with Americans no longer ‘off limits’ for cartels

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Four warring Mexican drug cartels are killing indiscriminately to claim control of an 80-mile stretch of resorts on the Caribbean coast to capitalize on the country’s $30 billion in tourism revenue. Private investigator Jay Arms III told FOX News Digital.

In the process, Americans and visitors from around the world have been collateral damage, witnessed horrific violence, or even “vanished from the face of the earth,” Arms said.

Over the past two weeks, cartel members have dismembered rival gang members with machetes in tourist-filled Cancun. A California woman has been killed in a gunfight near popular Tulum Beach. A kidnapped New York man was left in a remote jungle with his eyes taped shut.

And that just becomes national news.

Kidnapping was once a business in Mexico.Now there’s a ‘no-code’ to curb ruthlessness: experts

Mexican Marines escort five suspected Zetas drug traffickers in front of RPG-7 rocket launchers, grenades, guns, cocaine and military uniforms. June 9, 2011, at the Office of the Secretary of the Navy. In Mexico City. (Yuri Cortes/AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s all scary for us, but for the people of Mexico, it’s just Tuesday. Things like this happen all the time all over the country,” Armes said. “But now it’s happening in areas that were previously off-limits.”

About 15 to 20 years ago, cartel leaders lived by “codes similar to those of the Italian mob,” said a prominent PI.

“In the old days, you weren’t allowed to target women or children. You weren’t allowed to invade other cartels’ territory. And resorts were off limits. I wanted to fly under the radar.’”

American kidnapped in Mexico and left in jungle to die with tape wrapped around eyes and wrists

Armes said the killings of foreigners, especially Americans, at tourist destinations have drawn unwanted attention and “coercive and swift” action from Mexico’s government, military and law enforcement.

Government leaders wanted to protect tourism, which had been the country’s legal economic foundation for decades.

cartel camera

Video surveillance cameras are primarily operated by the Sinaloa cartel and are used in intelligence centers run by criminal organizations. (Photo courtesy of Fox News Digital)

aerial view of the beach

A gunfight broke out on a beach in Cancun, a resort town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, on Tuesday, sending tourists fleeing in panic. (Oasis Hotels)

According to Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism and Statistics, in 2022 alone there will be 66 million international tourists, including nearly 34 million American tourists.

Most travelers arrived via Cancun International Airport, with 36.1% of all arriving passengers arriving at the airport, according to the January report. According to They vacationed on gorgeous white sand beaches, thinking they were safe from cartel violence.

Mexican authorities arrest six people in connection with gruesome Cancun machete murders

In fact, it has become a war zone.

“The rules have changed,” Armes said. “All the old security codes are out the window. The resort is open.”

“The rules have changed. All the old security codes are out the window. The resort is open.”

He explains how travel bloggers and travelers social media influencer There is an influx of tourists the gang has never seen before.

“What we’re looking at as tourists is potential customers or potential victims of cartels,” Armes said. “Even if it’s 1% or 5% (of tourists to resorts), that’s millions of customers and a big chunk of business.”

cancun pool

A gunfight broke out on a beach in Cancun, a resort town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, on Tuesday, sending tourists fleeing in panic. (Grand Oasis Palm Resort)

Watch: Gunfight between cartels and Mexican authorities

The four major cartels want all the business in these areas. This includes El Chapo’s old cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel. Gulf Cartel. Jalisco new generation cartel. Armes said Grupo Regional is a “small” cartel founded by former Zetas, brutal and violent cartel enforcers.

“There are so many young people coming up (as cartel executives) and they don’t get any respect,” he said. I’m now free.

California woman shot dead at Mexican resort popular with Americans

And travelers are caught up in the violence, either as targets of robbery or sex trafficking, or as innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“One of the unfortunate byproducts of the war on drugs and drug trafficking is that in gunfights between cartels, innocent people inevitably get caught in the crossfire,” Armes said.

Joseph Constantin Buonincontri, abducted from New York, found in Mexican jungle

Mexican prosecutors say Joseph Constantin Buonincontri, 35, was abducted by men and left in a Mexican jungle with his eyes taped. (Mexican army)

From Cancun to Tulum along Mexico's Caribbean coast

The 130-mile stretch from Cancun to Tulum, Mexico is filled with luxury resorts and battlegrounds between warring cartels. (Google Maps)

According to the Quintana Roo Attorney General’s Office, this is what happened to Niko Honalbakhsh, 44, from Los Angeles.

On February 9, Honalbakhsh was murdered along with a Belizean drug dealer who was in possession of cocaine, a “clear bag of red and orange pills,” and a bag of “brown granular powder.” Ta. This was announced by the AG’s office.

Four bus and taxi drivers shot dead in southern Mexico city

That’s different from the men who were cut to death in Cancun, Armes said.

“It was violence between drug traffickers. It was a very public killing intended as a warning,” he said. “Leaving bodies in the trunk of a car, in a car on the street, in a public place hanging from a bridge, is either a cartel sending a message to a rival cartel or instilling fear in politicians.”

CJNG drug cartel

The initials of the drug cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) are graffitied on a wall in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, Mexico, on August 29, 2023. (Ulices Ruiz/AFP via Getty Images)

Violence makes Mayan ruins inaccessible

Another popular tourist attraction is the Mayan ruins in Mexico’s Chiapas state, about 1,100 miles east of the resort town on the Caribbean coast near the Guatamalan border.

According to one report, the Mexican government admitted that they were effectively cut off by cartel violence. January 27th report By Associated Press.

Mexican government says some Mayan ruins are inaccessible due to gang violence in Mexico

Two other tourist guides in Chiapas state told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that two other locations that the Mexican government says remain open to tourists can only be reached by passing through drug gang checkpoints. said.

“It’s like telling them to go to the Gaza Strip, right?” one of the guides told The Associated Press.

mayan ruins

Tourists in Yasilan, Usumacinta, Chiapas, Mexico. (Dosfotos/Design Pix Editing/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

mayan ruins

Labyrinth of structure 19, ruins of Yaxsilan, Chiapas, Mexico. (Getty Images)

“They take your phone and ask for your sign-in code, and then they look at your conversations to see if you belong to another gang,” the guide said.

“A rival group could appear at any time and a gunfight could begin.”


Although the government and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have downplayed gang violence, tourists have canceled about 5% of trips booked in the region since around December.

Armes said politicians pretending people aren’t being killed at an exponential rate and downplaying violence is a key element of Mexico’s tangled web, calling it “a fundamental “It gives cartels immunity.”

fox news digital mitch picasso contributed to this report.