From brutal beheadings to violent kidnappings, the cartel wars of Cancun have unleashed horror on Mexico’s Caribbean coast as gangsters wreak havoc feet away from luxury resorts.
Violent drug gangs are waging a bloody war in the tourist haven of Quintana Roo – visited by millions of British and American tourists each year.
The stretch of paradise – which includes the white sandy beaches of Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum – is blighted by cartels battling for power and territory.
The murderous gangsters have been creeping out of the Mexican barrios, or neighborhoods, and closer to the tourist enclaves.
The horror execution of two drug dealers by a commando of gunmen on a tourist beach in Puerto Morelos on Thursday is the latest chapter in the bloody battle of the rival gangs.
About 15 men rocked up in ski masks at the Azul Beach Resort and the Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun to assassinate two men as horrified sunbathers fled the beach.
As the murder rate spirals out of control, the Mexican government has now taken charge of all 11 police forces in Quintana Roo to try and regain order.
The region used to be mainly ruled by the Los Zetas cartel – but the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels have engaged them in a brutal conflict.
Now the fast-rising Jalisco New Generation Cartel, known for torturing and dismembering its victims, has gained supremacy.
The cartel, with its reputation for ruthlessness and violence, has littered the streets of Cancun with the bodies of its victims.
Hundreds of bodies have been found, dumped in drainage canals, buried in fields and the patios and yards of homes.
In 2018, two of the cartel’s victims were found dismembered in plastic bags, while other bodies have been found dissolved in acid.
One morgue in Guadalajara in the capital of the state of Jalisco even ran out of space and started moving rotting bodies around in refrigerated trucks until neighbors complained about the smell, ABC News reports.
And last year, cartel gunmen ambushed and killed 14 state police officers in Michoacán – with some shot in the head.
Jalisco uses quasi-military tactics, and their gangsters like to wear military camouflage and parade in convoys of dozens of pick-up trucks marked with the letters “CJNG”.
The hitmen hang banners from overpasses announcing their arrival in towns and offer cash rewards for enemies.
They reportedly post videos on social media, usually featuring a few dozen heavily-armed, camouflage-clad men, announcing they have come to “clean up the town”.
In Cancun, a man wandered up to a local crime-scene photographer at a taco stand.
In a chilling warning, he reportedly: “We’re from Jalisco. We just want you to know that we’re here. Enjoy your meal.”
Jalisco are said to be even more terrifying than the notorious Zetas – who left piles of as many as 50 bodies on roads, kidnapped hundreds of people, and burned their victims alive.
Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope told ABC News: “They have an almost nationwide presence.”
“It seems to me they have a more centralized decision-making structure than other criminal groups.”
Just two weeks ago, a California travel blogger and a German tourist were tragically gunned down in a shootout in the beach town of Tulum.
Anjali Ryot, from San Jose, and German citizen Jennifer Henzold were killed in the rampage at a street-side eatery near Tulum’s main strip.
Two German men and a Dutch woman were also wounded in the crossfire.
In June, an American tourist was wounded while on holiday after hitmen on jet skis sprayed a beach with bullets in a turf war with a rival drug gang.
A stray bullet hit the woman’s shoulder when she was caught in the crossfire while relaxing under a palm-roofed hut.
The gunmen executed two people – reportedly street vendors selling craft items – on the beach before escaping across the water.
Many of these vendors also work as drug dealers, selling marijuana and cocaine to visitors.
On the same day, shots were fired at the local office of the department of the state prosecutor that works to fight small-scale drug trafficking.
One month later, the body of firefighter Elijah Snow, 35, was reportedly found in a bathroom window at a hotel in Cancun.
The family of the Texas man, who was on holiday with his wife to celebrate their wedding anniversary, suspect he was kidnapped and murdered.
Photos appeared to show that Snow had been beaten on most of his body, except his head and face.
Earlier this year, the US State Department warned citizens to “exercise increased caution” when travelling to the area due to crime.
“Criminal activity and violence, including homicide, occur throughout the state,” the department’s website said.
“Most homicides appear to be targeted; however, criminal organization assassinations and turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by US citizens.”
“Bystanders have been injured or killed in shooting incidents.”
This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced here with permission.