Mexico announces tourist protection battalion to safeguard popular beaches

By: AFP      Published: 11:35 PM, 17 Nov, 2021
Mexico announces tourist protection battalion to safeguard popular beaches
Mexico announces tourist protection battalion to safeguard popular beaches

Mexico on Wednesday pledged to create a "tourist battalion" of 1,500 National Guard police officers to protect its popular Caribbean beaches in Cancun and Tulum from organized crime.

Tulum was the scene in October of a shooting that killed two young tourists, one from Germany and the other from India. Three others were injured.

In November, a shoot-out in Puerto Morelos, close to Cancun -- allegedly a settling of scores between gangs -- left two suspected drug dealers dead and caused panic in a hotel packed with tourists.

"This cannot be repeated," said President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at a press conference, adding that the battalion would "reinforce security."

The new unit will begin operations on December 1 in the area known as the Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo state, said Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval.

Authorities plan to eventually introduce similar battalions in other tourist hot-spots.

The Riviera Maya and Yucatan peninsula are the main tourism areas in Mexico, the seventh most visited country in the world.

Tourism accounts for 8.5 percent of the country's GDP.

The recent violence has shone a spotlight on the dark side of Tulum and other Mexican resorts hit by turf wars between gangs involved in drug dealing and extortion.

Since 2006 when the government launched its controversial anti-drug military operation, Mexico has recorded more than 300,000 murders, according to official figures.