Dateline reports on the rising rate of violence in Mexico’s tourist-magnet, Cancun.
Cancun is known for its white sand beaches and turquoise waters, but after a spate of brutal murders, travellers are being warned about the risks associated with growing violent crime in the city.
Reporter Krishnan Guru-Murthy travels to Mexico for Dateline to investigate why the murders are taking place and whether Cancun risks going the same way as Acapulco – once the premier tourism resort in Mexico, but now one that virtually no foreigners visit.
Cancun is in the state of Quintana Roo, where there were 169 killings in the first half of 2017, more than double the previous year’s figure. Dateline discovers the impact this has had on both the local area and Mexico’s billion-dollar tourism industry.
“We’ve been told that local politicians here have put the press under pressure not to report violence in this area, because if the tourists are scared away from here, it will be an economic disaster not only for Cancun, but for Mexico,” explains Guru-Murthy.
Acapulco, once one of the most glamourous places in the world, is now the murder capital of Mexico. The city is so dangerous that troops patrol the streets and beaches. Extortion and murder are rife and many businesses have been forced to close.
A local businesswoman named Lara explains, “They arrived one day and asked for between 15,000 and 20,000 pesos a month. Probably around 30 or 40% of our turnover.
“It’s not nice to walk in the street and find someone’s head. It’s very sad to know that your friends have been executed. Medics, taxi drivers, doctors, business people… no social class is exempt.”
Extortion isn’t just happening in the city and in nearby coastal villages where the police rarely go, there is even less protection and people are making a stand.
In Barra Vieja, Dateline meets Rene Ozuna, a lifelong fisherman who inspired local people to rise up against the extortion gangs by forming themselves into groups of vigilantes called the Community Police.
Rene explains, “We have killed about six or seven people. But only criminals, extortionists. Criminals who have cut people into pieces. In civilian life, I’m a good person.”
Tuesday 13 March at 9.30pm on SBS.