U.S. Lifts Travel Ban for Federal Staff in Playa del Carmen

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The United States Embassy in Mexico City issued a new security alert which lifts the travel ban that prohibited government employees from traveling to Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo.

The popular tourist destination is under heightened alert after two un-detonated explosive devices were found attached to a tourist ferry, Barcos Caribe II, by Mexican law enforcement in nearby Cozumel on March 1.

The alert also makes reference to a recent explosive device that detonated on a ferry in Playa del Carmen on February 21, resulting in injuries–including U.S. citizens. The notice prohibited federal employees from using all tourist ferries on the route until further notice. According to local reports, the Barcos Caribe II was docked and under repairs in Cozumel for at least 10 months prior.

The new travel alert reads:

Effective immediately, U.S. government personnel are permitted to use ferry services between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.

As noted in our Mexico Travel Advisory for the state of Quintana Roo, U.S. citizens should exercise increased caution due to crime. According to Government of Mexico statistics, the state experienced an increase in homicide rates compared to the same period in 2016. While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents injuring or killing bystanders have occurred.

The new travel alert came a day after local authorities discovered two more murders in the early morning hours of March 15. An anonymous call led municipal police to the victims who were shot to death and accompanied by a poster board message like commonly left at the scenes of cartel-related killings. Officials did not release the poster contents and the two victims were identified as locals.

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.)