Mexico is deploying a 1,500-strong “tourist battalion” to protect vacationers in Cancun and nearby resorts following a spike in gang violence in the popular hot spots.
The National Guard contingent’s “permanent” presence will begin next month and comes after two tourists were shot dead in Tulum and a gang shootout at a Cancun beach resort sent tourists running for their lives.
“This cannot be repeated,” Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said at a press conference announcing the move. “In a few more days, about 1,500 from the National Guard are to be mobilized in Quintana Roo.”
The Tourist Security Battalion will focus on hot spots of concern in the province, particularly Benito Juarez, Solidaridad and Tulum, the Yucatan Times said in a report.
“This battalion will provide security to the entire tourist area,” National Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval told the outlet Wednesday.
“As the year progresses we will provide it with the tools to do this job, the equipment to be able to attend this new mission and it will also be able to take this model that we will use here for the first time,” Sandoval said.
Mexico relies heavily on tourist dollars, primarily from Cancun and the surrounding vacation spots, and officials worry that recent violence could hurt the industry.
On Nov. 4, guests at the Hyatt Ziva Riviera scrambled for shelter during a shootout between rival drug gangs on the beach at the resort.
Authorities said two of the gangsters were killed but no tourists were seriously hurt.
But last month, two tourists were killed in Tulum, about 80 miles south of Cancun, when they were caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting at a popular restaurant.
The slain tourists were from India and Germany, with two German and one Dutch tourist wounded in the exchange of gunfire.
Authorities said the shooting was sparked by a beef between street-level drug dealers.
With Post wires