Canadians travel to Mexico more than any other country except the United States. But many visitors may be unaware of the growing violence in a main city that was once hailed as one of the country’s safest: Cancun.
This week, five people were found dead near the public prosecutor’s office in the city on the Yucatán Peninsula, bringing the death toll by violence in the beach city to more than 100 since the beginning of the year.
Drug cartels are operating in the region more openly. While tourists have not been the targets of violence so far, killings are starting to take place closer to destinations popular with visitors.
The Government of Canada has a general travel advisory for Mexico but has not advised Canadians against planning travel to Cancun or the surrounding areas, including Playa del Carmen, another popular beach location.
Watch below: WARNING: Video contains disturbing images. Viewer discretion is advised. Security cameras the capture moment a ferry explodes at a Mexico pier in February 2018.
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada told Global News the department “recommends that Canadian travellers exercise a high degree of caution in Mexico.”
The spokesperson acknowledged that “although it does not target tourists, violence related to organized crime increased throughout the country in 2017.”
Watch below: On March 15, 2018, Sarah Kraus reported on an Edmonton man contemplating whether he will visit Mexico again after he said he and his wife, along with another couple, were carjacked and robbed while driving near Mazatlan earlier this year.
In 2013, Global News reported the story of Diego Hernandez, a Vancouver man. He and an American man were believed to have been abducted by police officers in another popular vacation destination, Puerto Vallarta. The two men have never been found.
Nancy and Domenic Ianiero of Vaughan, Ont., were staying with family members at the Barcelo Maya Resort in Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo, the same state as Cancun. They were found slashed to death on Feb. 20, 2006 in their hotel rooms. Their killer has not been found.
Cancun, a popular sun and beach destination among Canadians, Americans and Europeans, had been regarded as safe until 2017.
Despite the killings, Canadian travel agents are promoting the destination actively as though nothing is unusual there.
Global News called the Toronto office of a national travel agency asked specifically about whether it is safe to travel to Cancun.
“One-hundred per cent, 100 per cent safe. I’m going there in a month,” the travel agent said.
Prompted to elaborate and informed of the 100 deaths there since January, the travel agent didn’t show any doubt or apparent concern about the high number of homicides.
“Well, I mean, that’s like anywhere, right? There’s always going to be something going on but there are no real travel advisories for Cancun at all,” she said.
“One-hundred per cent OK to travel… there’s nothing wrong with travelling there.”
While Canada has not listed a specific, higher-level caution for Cancun the way it has for other destinations in Mexico, the U.S. government recently instituted a Level 2 advisory for Quintana Roo state, which includes Cancun.
“While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens,” reads part of the advisory from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.
“Shooting incidents injuring or killing bystanders have occurred.”