Authorities in Cancun, the crown jewel of Mexico’s tourism industry, have discovered eight dead bodies dumped close to each other in the city, less than a month after four people were found dead near a beachside resort in the hotel zone.
Local outlet Riviera Maya News reported that the bodies of five adults were found inside a reservoir filled with water on an abandoned property, citing state prosecutor Óscar Montes de Oca.
The bodies were likely dumped there between one week and two months ago, he said. Three of the five dead have been identified as people previously reported missing.
As police were searching the surrounding neighbourhood of Alfredo V. Bonfil over the weekend, they discovered the skeletal remains of three more people in a wooded area.
Montes de Oca pledged to the families of missing people on Monday that the state of Quintana Roo, where Cancun in located, will continue to carry out more searches and work to identify all of the deceased.
More than 112,000 people are listed as missing in Mexico, and searches for clandestine gravesites have become common throughout the country. What is unusual is that they are now being carried out in Cancun, an international tourist destination that has enjoyed a reputation of relative safety.
The body dumping grounds are often used by drug cartels to dispose of bodies of their victims. Several cartels are fighting for control of the Caribbean coast and its lucrative retail drug trade.
The bodies were found in a neighbourhood about 15 kilometres from Cancun’s beach and hotel zone, but relatively close to the resort’s airport.
The Attorney General’s Office of Quintana Roo posted a statement late last night to clarify that the bodies were not found in a Cancun resort, and urged people to not “publish and share on social networks false news that only damage the image of Quintana Roo.”
Feuding drug gangs have caused violence in Cancun and the resort-studded Caribbean coast south of it.
Earlier this month, four men in Cancun were killed in a dispute related to drug gang rivalries. The dead men were found in the city’s hotel zone near the beach.
Mexican authorities believe the killings are linked to drug gang leader Hector Elias Flores Aceves, also known as “The Panther,” and offered a 1 million peso ($75,000) reward for anyone who has information about his whereabouts.
In March, a U.S. tourist was shot in the leg in the nearby town of Puerto Morelos. The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert that month warning travellers to “exercise increased caution,” especially after dark, at resorts like Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
In 2022, two Canadians were killed in Playa del Carmen, apparently because of debts between international drug and weapons trafficking gangs.
In 2021, in Tulum, two tourists — one a California travel blogger born in India and the other German — were killed when they apparently were caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between rival drug dealers.
The Government of Canada does not have a standing alert for the Quintana Roo region, but warns that all travellers to Mexico should “exercise a high degree of caution.”
“There are high rates of violent crime, such as homicides, kidnappings, carjacking and assaults, including in popular tourist destinations such as the Mayan Riviera (Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos and Tulum), and Acapulco,” the advisory states.
“Criminal groups and drug cartels are present in tourist areas. Inter-gang and cartel fighting has taken place in restaurants, hotels and nightclubs frequented by tourists.”
— With files from The Associated Press