U.S. Embassy Bans Staff from Popular Mexican Tourist Spot after Alleged Cartel Bomb Injures 7 Americans

The United States Embassy in Mexico City issued a new security alert on Wednesday after receiving information of a threat in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo.

The warning is effective immediately and states that U.S. Government employees are prohibited from traveling to Playa del Carmen until further notice. The U.S. Consular Agency in Playa del Carmen will also be closed until further notice.

This popular tourist destination has been under heightened alert after two un-detonated explosive devices were found attached to a tourist ferry, Barcos Caribe II, by Mexican law enforcement in Cozumel on March 1. The discovery occurred after an alleged cartel bomb blast ripped through the ferry, Barcos Caribe, on February 21, leaving 24 injured–including seven U.S. citizens.

After the discovery of the two un-detonated explosive devices, the United States Embassy issued a travel alert that prohibited federal employees from using all tourist ferries between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen until further notice.

In August 2017, the U.S. State Department issued a warning to tourists about cartel violence in the once calm beach resorts of Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen. It specifically mentioned risks of traveling to certain parts due to the ongoing cartel violence and warned that U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery.

For many years, these popular tourist destinations were effectively immune to the cartel-related violence that had overtaken other parts of Mexico. The uptick has been attributed to the fight over the lucrative drug markets of Cancun and Playa de Carmen by Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion, Los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel, and independent groups loyal to the Sinaloa Cartel.

Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime and street gangs. Arce has worked in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, and recently completed a three-year assignment in Monterrey, Mexico, working out of the Consulate for the United States Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program, where he was the Regional Program Manager for Northeast Mexico (Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas.)

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