– The drug dealers shoot in a famous bar in Tulum, a young woman from Nuremberg dies, the horror is great. But how dangerous is Mexico really? Jennifer H. is a victim of the gang war that has raged for decades, but in which tourists are not a target. About a country whose criminals are very different from those who portray series like “Narcos”.
The bar “La Malquerida” is one of the dozen in Tulum. Lobster pizza, margaritas, lots of tourists. Here, directly on the popular main street of the holiday resort, joie de vivre, partying and alcohol usually dump a full 15-minute drive from safe hotel complexes and more sophisticated beach clubs. It is the night of October 20 when the drug dealers shoot the rather small restaurant with assault rifles. According to local media, police counted at least 23 rounds after the attack. Apparently randomly, the men fired gunshots, two tourists were killed, including Jennifer H., a young woman who lived in Nuremberg. She and her boyfriend wanted to spend the autumn holidays on the Mexican Caribbean coast. She died in a barrage of bullets from drug gangs.
The day after the shooting, the police are on duty at the crime scene, the bar “La Malquerida”.
© Christian Rojas, dpa
Jennifer H. is the victim of a war that is not hers. It’s all about protection, drugs, domination in the underworld, which Mexico’s dazzling Riviera Maya also holds in its hands. In a country that has grown accustomed to violence. 100 murders are recorded every day between Tijuana in the north and Cancun in the south-east. 88,000 people are said to have disappeared without a trace. The Federal Foreign Office, for example, warns vacationers: especially in the Tulum area and Playa del Carmen, tourists should not leave their protected hotel complexes.
“With the big parties comes drugs”
“In principle, vacationers rarely die or are injured in shootings between drug gangs,” says Jens Glüsing, who works for the magazine. The mirror reported for years from Latin America. The foreign ministry warning is certainly “nonsense”, but “Mexico is not that dangerous”. At least for tourists from Europe who love to sunbathe on the beaches of the Riviera. Tulum and Cancun in particular are experiencing a boom due to lax entry rules during the pandemic. Hundreds of planes land day after day, non-stop, for months.
This is exactly what arouses the wishes of the mafia. “With the big parties in Tulum, for example, drugs come,” explains Glüsing. There is a lot of money to be made in poor Mexico with rich Europeans buying cocaine, marijuana and synthetic narcotics. “The conflicts between the gangs are about control of the outlets, that is, local consumption,” he says mirror-Corresponding. “Not for the international drug trade.”
The gangs are very different from the “Narcos” series
In any case, Mexico’s drug mafia has little to do with what series like “Narcos” or “El Chapo” outline. “It’s not one giant cartel meeting another,” says Glüsing. Local gangs are mostly scattered, cooperating loosely with larger organizations and clashing – shots are fired. Like in Tulum. The Ministry of Security of Quintana Roo, the state to which the resort belongs, assumes that there are six criminal organizations active in the city, including the well-known Sinaloa cartel and the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación union.
Tulum is famous for images like this: crystal clear sea, white beaches, impressive Mayan ruins.
© Michael Juhran, dpa-tmn
Local media report that at least one perpetrator of the Tulum shooting belonged to the Los Pelones gang. He is believed to be an arm of the Sinaloa cartel, the union led for many years by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. A few days after the bloody crime, “Los Pelones” displayed a banner in the city center. “This is a warning, we mean business,” read the paper. “If you don’t do what we want, we’ll keep shooting and the restaurants will close. Let’s control the city.” A message for all Tulum entrepreneurs: pay for protection. Or we will destroy your business.
“Attract all kinds of creatures from the underworld”
“Bar owners and club operators are afraid, it’s a big problem,” says Glüsing mirror. “Tourism is the currency earner par excellence for Mexico.” Apparently, the correspondent explains, restaurateurs in Tulum and Playa del Carmen can hardly manage restaurants without paying the mafia. “They have a good turnover, but often not that much money.”
It is the glittering world of the Caribbean coast that attracts criminals. Tulum, for example, has grown relatively uncontrollably over the past 20 years, official population numbers are exploding and the “La Veleta” district in the west is making its way deeper and deeper into the jungle. “When a lot of money circulates, it attracts all kinds of underworld figures,” says Glüsing. All this happens in a country where poverty is still high and corruption is rampant. “The tentacles of the drug mafia go far in politics and police.”
The Attorney General’s Office released this photo of a suspect guilty – it shows Jose L., a suspect in the shooting case.
© Attorney General Quintana Roo
In the case of Jennifer H. of Nuremberg being killed, the government is at least publicly demonstrating determination. Now the military is also in action. “The presence of the National Guard throughout the Riviera Maya should be strengthened,” said President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The perpetrators will be hunted down and the bloody deeds cleared up. Ballistics experts carefully marked the crime scene, the “La Malquerida” bar, as evidenced by images posted on Twitter by Quintana Roo State Attorney General on Tuesday. After all, the police were able to place a suspect in a hospital after the shooting. José L. is accused of murder, attempted murder and assault. There is no trace of the other authors – there should be at least two.
An isolated case is Jennifer H., experts say, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it is not a consolation for the family. She is the victim of a war that is not hers.