Sunday, August 5, 2012

On Playa del Carmen's famous Fifth Avenue, drug market openly flourishes and "anarchy prevails"

Plenty of booze and dope on the street - pick your route to a quick high in tourist mecca

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo -
In this beach town half an hour south of Cancún, they're waiting today for Ernesto. The brewing storm, just entering the eastern Caribbean, may or may not turn into a full fledged hurricane which could strike the Yucatán peninsula head on later this week.

And some are waiting for their next high, an easy thing to accomplish here. Drugs are being sold on the city's main tourist strip so brazenly that a local newspaper calls it "anarchy in the tourist heart of town."

Particularly along Playa's bustling Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), drug sales are the "cherry on the cake," said Por Esto! in yesterday's edition. No one in law enforcement does anything, claims the paper, because they're either on the payroll of the two major organized crime groups here, Los Zetas and Los Pelones, or they fear that fellow officers are. Blowing the whistle could lead to the issuance of a quick death sentence - and already has.

Tourism drives the narcotics industry in this state (Who's buying the drugs in Quintana Roo's Riviera Maya?), and directly or indirectly other vices as well. Most of the regional underground economy consists of drugs (Mexican armed forces raid drug houses in Playa del Carmen tourist zone), sex (Cancún Zetas extort even street vendors, and run sex trade, too) and commercial extortion (Mexico's Caribbean Riviera Maya in the hands of drug cartels and extortionists). Pirated goods and related enterprises might occupy a very distant fourth place.

As a result, many legitimate businessmen have simply given up (300 businesses close in Cancún, Riviera Maya due to 2011 narco extortion, threats). The mayor of Cancún himself said last spring that the resort mecca's glory days were over, probably never to return (Cancún, no longer an oasis for most). Many involved in the tourist trade have admitted much the same thing.

Violence is common in Playa del Carmen. Last September, the chief of Tourist Police was executed by an AR-15 wielding hit squad as he sat his his patrol car, and a deputy with him was seriously wounded (Playa del Carmen's chief of Tourist Police shot to death). Two months ago another officer and a passenger in his car were killed by gunmen who were armed with, among other things, hand grenades (Playa del Carmen police officer executed, after hit men arrive by taxi).

A Playa businessman, owner of the Caribbean Paradise Hotel on Fifth Avenue, was murdered a few weeks ago (Riviera Maya hotel owner refuses to pay the "rent," so extortionists execute him), allegedly on direct orders of the Los Zetas "boss of the plaza" in Playa. The suspect was identified by confederates last week (Los Zeta captain in Playa del Carmen behind hotel owner's murder).

Even professionals in Quintana Roo, such as attorneys, get in on the action. It has cost some their lives. (Attorney allegedly tied to Los Zetas real estate transfers executed in Q.R.; "Narco Notaries" - the professionalization of drug trafficking & organized crime; Attorney murdered in Q.R. office).

Apart from drugs, Por Esto! reports that there is virtually no enforcement of liquor laws, and people openly walk the streets with alcohol. Unlicensed street vendors are everywhere, according to the paper. And 11 months after the murder of Playa's chief of Tourist Police, no one wants the job.

That will surprise few.

Jan. 16, 2013 - Canadian gunmen arrested in Playa del Carmen allegedly linked to organized crime
Oct. 27 - Mexican Army commander: Cancún and Playa del Carmen police are infiltrated by narcos

Aug. 7 - Street drug sales are on the rise in the heart of Cancún, known as the "party center." In one neighborhood, including busy Yaxchilán avenue, police say there are at least 1,500 tienditas - little retail outlets. Drug prices are up 10-15% in the hotel zone. A 100 gram bag of marijuana averages 200 pesos ($16), and a gram of coke goes for 200-250 pesos (up to $20). Those prices are peanuts compared to the street price in the U.S. - the result of unlimited supply and lax law enforcement, no doubt. Another reason why Quintana Roo is such a popular place.

Cocaine and other drugs enter Quintana Roo state tracking much the same route as tropical storm Ernesto - northwest from the South American mainland. More dope comes ashore in Quintana Roo

Honduras "invaded by drug traffickers" - 100 tons of cocaine annually to U.S.

Attack on Cancún sports bar leaves young waitress dead

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