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More gunplay on Cancún beaches; should you still visit?

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Police officers patrol a beach in Tulum, Mexico, in late October. Photo: Getty

Soon after a special battalion of National Guard troops was assigned to protect the area, gunfire broke out Tuesday on a hotel-zone beach in Cancún. Tourists scrambled for cover, but nobody appeared to be injured.

The attackers apparently pulled up to the beach on jet skis and shot pistols into the air.

“We just had to hit the deck,” said Andy Guyrich, a tourist from Minnesota. His companion, Kerry Arms, described a “delayed reaction for about maybe five seconds, then everybody started scrambling and screaming and crying, and running.”

The incident follows a Nov. 5 attack in Puerto Morelos when a commando of drug gang gunmen stormed a beach and opened fire in front of luxury hotels, executing two drug dealers from a rival gang. The attack sent tourists scrambling for cover.

Two weeks before that, a California travel blogger and a German tourist were killed in crossfire during a similar shootout in Tulum. Three other foreign tourists were wounded in the shooting at a street-side eatery right off Tulum’s main strip. They included two German men and a Dutch woman.

In June, two men were shot to death on the beach in Tulum and a third was wounded.

During the first nine months of 2021, once-tranquil Tulum experienced 65 murders, an 80.5% increase over the same period the previous year, according to Mexico’s public safety system.

The administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has pinned its hopes on the Maya Riviera, where he is building a new international airport and a stop for the Mayan Train, which will run in a loop around the Yucatán Peninsula, if completed.

So should travelers reconsider their plans?

A State Department is always updating its travel advisory, which has state-by-state summaries and information on specific destinations. The state of Quintana Roo, where Tulum, Cancún, and Puerto Morelos are, most recently had an “Exercise Increased Caution” advisory.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a countrywide “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” health advisory for Mexico because of coronavirus concerns.

Additionally, O’Rourke recommended that U.S. travelers enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service that can offer support in emergencies abroad.

Travel experts also recommend that Americans put the violence in perspective.

“There’s violence like this all over the world, including the US,” said Zachary Rabinor of the travel planning company Journey Mexico. “And if you really put a magnifying glass on some of the inner cities in the US you could report on stories like this every day.”

“Are there parts of the world I’d say don’t travel to right now? Of course, but I wouldn’t say Mexico is one of them,” said Kenneth Bombace of Global Threat Solutions,  “Do your research, know what the threats are, and avoid them — that’s pretty much the way to handle your travel to these places.”

With information from The Associated Press, The Washington Post

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