MEXICO CITY – Seven men have been killed in a shooting attack at a bar in Mexico’s Caribbean coasl city of Playa del Carmen, authorities said Monday.
State and local police said the attack occurred late Sunday at the “Las Virginias” bar in a low-income section relatively far from the beachside tourist resort zone. Six men were found shot to death in the bar, and another died at a local hospital.
One man was wounded but survived the attack. He told police he was drinking beer with friends when gunshots broke out. The attackers have not yet been identified.
Playa del Carmen is located on the coast facing the island of Cozumel, Mexico’s leading cruise ship destination. Once a quiet fishing and ferry town, Playa del Carmen has grown exponentially in the last two decades, with lower-income neighborhoods springing up on the inland side of the coastal highway.
The resort is midway between Cancun, to the north, and Tulum, to the south, in the coastal state of Quintana Roo, which has seen homicides more than double in the last year, with 688 killings in the first 11 months of 2018, compared to 322 in the same period of 2017. At that rate, Quintana Roo could end 2018 with a homicide rate of about 50 per 100,000, on a par with El Salvador.
The Caribbean coast — especially Cancun and the area south known as the “Riviera Maya” — had long been largely spared the drug violence affecting other areas, but that no longer appears to be the case. Local sources report that the feared Jalisco cartel has moved into the region, disputing control with local gangs.
In September, two Mexican marines were found stabbed to death in Cancun. In a single day in August, police found eight bodies strewn on the streets of Cancun.
In January 2017, gunmen attacked the state prosecutors’ office in Cancun, killing four people. A day before that, a shooting at a music festival in Playa del Carmen left three foreigners and two Mexicans dead.
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico issued a brief travel warning for Playa del Carmen in March. A February 2018 blast on a ferry apparently caused by an explosive device injured 26 people, including several American citizens.
That has sparked fears that the Caribbean resorts could come to resemble the faded Pacific coast resort of Acapulco. The bloody violence in Acapulco that flared in 2006 eventually earned it a level-four “do not travel” warning from the U.S. Department of State.
Still, violence in Playa del Carmen is still far from Acapulco levels. In 2017, Acapulco had a homicide rate of 103 per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest in Mexico and the world.