The Mexican authorities have sent a new ‘tourist security team’ to the holiday hotspots of Cancun and Riviera Maya to protect visitors amid a rise in criminal gang activity.
Members of the new tourist security battalion of the National Guard carried out their first patrols in Cancun and Riviera Maya on Thursday.
Around 1,500 National Guard officers were sent to the municipalities of Benito Juarez, Isla Mujeres, Solidaridad, Puerto Morelos and Tulum.
The tourist security team, equipped with rifles, camouflaged uniforms and combat helmets, began touring the area’s popular beaches and known strategic points to tackle the increase in drug-related gang clashes in recent months, according to the news site Enfoque Noticias.
One of the main functions is to provide security for national and foreign tourists on beaches, shopping centres and entertainment venues in the area.
The new tourist team is part of the country’s National Guard, which falls under the command of the Secretariat of National Defence (Sedena).
The creation of this elite group was announced by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on 17th November following two violent gang clashes in Tulum and Puerto Morelos.
On 20th October, two tourists, one German and one identified as a Hindu, were killed during a clash between two groups at bar La Malquerida in Tulum. Three other tourists sustained gunshot wounds in the incident.
On 4th November in Puerto Morelos, located between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, a heavily-armed gang arrived at the beach of the plush Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun Hotel to assassinate two drug dealers from a rival group.
The incident resulted in the murder of the two gang members and caused great panic among tourists staying at the hotel.
All officers of the new team will undergo intensive training in the coming days and attend courses on “tourist proximity” and “protection of national and international tourism”.