Many Brits think of Cancún as an idyllic paradise of white sand, turquoise sea and flatteringly lit beach parties, thanks to its long-held reputation as a popular holiday destination. However the Mexican city is fast becoming known for something else entirely.
Cancún, situated on the coast of the Yucatán peninsula towards the Caribbean Sea, is evolving into a hotbed of murder and violent crime. The murder rate has more than doubled over the past year; more than 100 people have been killed since the start of 2018, with 14 people murdered in a single 36-hour period last month – the highest rate Mexico has ever seen – and five more bodies found in a car just a fortnight later.
The problem has been attributed to the city's thriving drugs trade and the growing prevalence of extortion, which now are said to be threatening the city's billion-dollar tourism industry and damaging its reputation as a holiday hotspot, reports LADbible.
British journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy travelled to the city recently and was shocked by the extent of the violence and the police's willingness to turn a blind eye to the crime. He said it was "as if the police [didn't] want anyone to notice". He continued: "There's minimum fuss and hardly any officers here.
"We’ve been told that local politicians here have put the press under pressure not to report violence in this area, because if the tourists are scared away from here, it will be an economic disaster not only for Cancún, but for Mexico," he said in a report for Australian broadcaster SBS.
More than half a million British people visited Mexico in 2016, with Cancún/Riviera Maya proving one of the country's most popular destinations, along with Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta. However, it's unclear how aware these travellers are of the seriousness of the crime in the area.
The close link between murders and the drug trade is an ongoing problem for Mexico, with drug violence blamed for a record 29,000 murders last year – the highest rate in the country for decades.
However, Cancún isn't the only popular Mexican tourist destination that risks being added to holidaymakers' blacklists over crime. Acapulco, which used to be one of Mexico's most popular and glamorous destinations, is now the country's murder capital and had the second highest murder rate in the world (at 113.24 homicides per 100k residents), second only to Caracas in Venezuela.
To its credit, the UK Foreign Office does warn travellers heading to Mexico that "drug-related violence in Mexico has increased over recent years". It adds: "The violence is concentrated in specific areas, and some regions are almost completely spared. Make sure you research your destination thoroughly."
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