A battalion of about 1,500 members of the National Guard has started patrolling the resort town of Cancún in the wake of a surge in cartel violence where at least two tourists were killed after getting caught in the crossfire.
The elite force made its way into the Quintana Roo municipalities of Benito Juárez, Isla Mujeres, Solidaridad, Puerto Morelos and Tulum on Wednesday.
On Thursday morning they set off on their first patrols on beaches and streets that have been the scene of senseless murders.
‘It is too little, too late,’ said Robert Almonte, an expert on international criminal organizations, in a phone interview with DailyMail.com on Friday.
The National Guard’s Tourist Security Battalion was introduced by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on November 17 following shootings that tarnished the region’s image, including the murders of two female tourists – one of whom lived in San Jose, California.
A member of a National Guard elite force guards a beach in Cancún on Thursday. At least 1,500 national guardsmen started patrolling beaches and streets in the resort town of Cancún and others in the region to combat drug gang violence
Anjali Ryot, of San Jose, California, was one of two women killed at a bar in Tulum, Mexico, in an incident sparked by rival drug dealers on October 19. The 25-year-old, who was born in India, was visiting the Mexican resort town for her birthday
35-year-old German national Jennifer Henzold was murdered at the La Malquerida bar in Tulum on October 20
A team of 15 hired assassins murdered two rival drug dealers on a beach next to the Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancún in Puerto Morelos on November 4. The broad daylight assault forced tourists and workers to seek refuge in the hotel before the armed gang escaped on speedboats.
An October 20 shootout between two gangs involved in a turf war claimed the lives of Anjali Ryoy, a 25-year-old Indian national who resided in California, and 35-year-old German national Jennifer Henzold, at the La Malquerida bar in Tulum. Two German men and a woman from the Netherlands were also wounded.
On June 11, a 30-year-old woman visiting from Kentucky was shot and wounded after assassins arrived at a Cancún beach on jet skis and killed two workers inside a gift shop.
‘Tourists have been getting killed or assaulted at the resorts for some time now and it wasn’t until lately that the president decided to create this special unit to specifically address the resort area,’ said Almonte, a former U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas and retired deputy chief with the El Paso Police Department.
Visitors are surrounded by members of Mexico’s National Guard at beach in Cancún on Thursday, the first day of a permanent deployment of 1,500 elite force national guardsmen across resort towns in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo
At least 21,495 people had died as of September in violent incidents linked to criminal organizations, according to government data.
The state of Quintana Roo reported a minor decrease in murders between January and September, registering 442 homicides compared with 463 in the same period last year.
Beachgoers enjoy a day out on the sands in Cancún as a national guardsmen guards the area from rival gangs. Texas-based security consultant Robert Almonte told DailyMail.com on Friday that ‘it is too little, too late. Tourists have been getting killed or assaulted at the resorts for some time now and it wasn’t until lately that (Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador) decided to create this special unit to specifically address the resort area
Nearly 1,500 national guardsmen are forming part of an elite force to protect tourists and locals at resorts towns in the state of Quintana Roo. The group was put together November 17 following a string of incidents involving rival gangs that left two drug dealers dead on a beach next to a hotel in Puerto Morelos as well as two foreign visitors killed at a bar in Tulum
Members of the newly created Tourist Security Battalion of the National Guard patrol a beach in Cancún on Thursday
A 30-year-old American woman vacationing from Kentucky was wounded June 11 at Playa Tortugas, a beach in Cancún, after two gunmen stepped off their jet skis and opened fire, killing two male workers outside a gift shop before escaping
However, the killings have not deterred tourists from booking their vacation stays at resorts in the region, which attract nearly 20 million visitors a year.
Benito Juárez mayor Mara Lezama welcomed the deployment throughout Cancún and the neighboring cities.
‘It’s a great day, a historic day on the issue of preventing crime and security,’ she said, as quoted by Excelsior newspaper.
Almost assured that the presence of the National Guard will help going forward, but it will not be enough stop the criminal organizations from operating and going after their rival targets.
‘The bottom line is these cartels are ruthless,’ Almonte said. ‘They are not going to let the presence of the national guardsmen deter them from executing their hit, from killing someone. And they’re not careful when they do that. So they’re spraying bullets and the result of that is innocent bystanders, tourists are killed.’