Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cancún narco violence claims fifth victim in 2012

Taxi stolen and used by execution team minutes later, as warring cartels duke it out

Puerto Morelos, Quitana Roo - In this sunny seaport 20 miles south of Cancún, the largest harbor in Q.R. state, a taxi driver lost his vehicle and two men lost their lives Friday afternoon.

The events unfolded about 4:30 p.m. when a taxista was flagged down by three men who asked to be taken to a certain location. When they got there the men seized the driver, bound and gagged him and took off with the cab. He freed himself and summoned police.

Within minutes officers located the taxi nor far away. Alerted by a banging noise coming from the trunk, they opened it and discovered two men who had been shot in the head. One of the victims was already dead. The second, who police say was 18, was gravely wounded and expired soon after at a local hospital. A narcomensaje, or executioner's warning, was left with the victims, both of whom had been bound and shot with a .9 mm handgun. Their bodies showed evidence of beating and torture.

Cancún area authorities say these are the fourth and fifth narco executions since Jan. 1. A war between two vicious cartels - Los Zetas, who are powerful all over Mexico, and Los Pelones, a local upstart group known for contract murders - is being furiously waged in Quintana Roo state.

It's become voguish of late with executioners in this area to kill their victims after placing them in trunks, or at least to leave their remains there. The Spanish press refers to such unfortunates as los encajuelados - literally, the "trunked ones."

Postscript: Police say that these victims were nothing more than small time independent drug dealers, known as chapulines, without connection to any cartel. That's what got them executed. Being a sole proprietor on the street in Cancún can lead to a quick death sentence.

Apr. 29, 2012 - A contract executioner who worked for both Los Pelones and Los Matazetas has confessed to these murders, say Cancún police. He was arrested April 25.
Los Pelones killer in Cancún also may have been hit man for Los Matazetas:

Taxi drivers, Mérida police on edge after latest murder of local cabbie:
Cancún, Riviera Maya, under the thumb of los narcos:
Los Zetas control half of Mexico, including Yucatán, says top prosecutor:


  1. This is not good, since I'm moving to Playa shortly. Now a question - what can one do to stay out of trouble there? Are they really taking over business?

  2. I have a lot of posts dealing with Playa del Carmen; this is only one of many. You may want to check some of them out . . . like the above link entitled "Riviera Maya, under the thumb of narcos."

    Now to your question. If you had told me you were going to be visiting Playa for a few days just as a tourist, I'd tell you not to give things a second thought. Enjoy yourself, stick to major tourist attractions (beaches, restaurants, stores) and don't stray off by yourself into unknown territory, especially at night.

    But you're MOVING there? As in buying a home? I'd do a very thorough investigation were I you. Quintana Roo state has significant security issue -- anyone in the know will tell you so -- and things could get much worse before they get better. There is a general perception that police forces Q.R. are ineffective at best, and "on the take" at worst. Those kinds of factors can quickly affect real estate values in any community. I have Mexican friends who left that area and moved to Mérida just to get away from chronic security issues (especially people with young(er) children). I'd proceed with caution, no matter what local real estate agents in Q.R. may be telling you. They're far from objective about such things.

  3. What about staying in the resorts there? Are they owned by cartels? Sneak in your room at night kind of thing?

    Is it a bad idea to tour the mayan ruins if you are staying at the resorts in the riviera area? Everything we travel we follow common sense travel safety, however I've always been worried about being in cross fire type of situations.

    In 2010 we went to cabo and it was surprising to see military on so many corners, a huge navy battleship, to see trucks of military with machine guns drive by. It was the first time I have ever seen that in person. It was unreal.

    Last year we stopped in Cozumel and Roatan on a cruise, and I remember a local in Roatan trying to get us to follow him to go try an iguana at this restaurant. We turned him down, he was persistent and seemed nice, but you never know.

    One question I'm eager to know is, when you travel to these places, everyone seems so happy, so nice, it is hard to tell if they are good or bad. Would you say most resort employees are good? Or do cartel and gangs work at these places?

    I have enjoyed reading a lot of your articles, even the ones that have nothing to do with the area I am interested in. It's very insightful.

    1. same question as above. Your thoughts? Thinking about staying at Barcelo Maya Palace deluxe for a week and visiting the Tulum ruins and Xel-ha. Should this tourist visit be avoided?

  4. I'd not worry about it. Just use common sense, stick to high traffic tourist areas and everything will be fine.

  5. Hi-I have been to the Riviera Maya many times and last year drove to Chiquila from Playa and took the ferry over to Isla Holbox for a few days. This year we are planning on driving from Cancun to Xcalak for some scuba diving and possibly do some sight seeing in Tankah Bay. We will be there September 15th through the 20th. We have never been this far south. Previously we have not ventured too much farther south than Tulum. What do you advise?

  6. I never advise. I only report. I cover Q.R. and Riviera Maya extensively, mainly because nobody else does so in English (and very few in Spanish). But I would recommend ordinary security measures such as avoiding night driving, settling into one's accommodations by early evening and avoiding conspicuous displays of wealth in any form (cash, jewelry, etc.). Those things serve travelers well any place, of course, but particularly in this country.