Authorities in the Mexican resort of Cancun said Tuesday they are trying to identify eight bodies found dumped in the Caribbean resort.
Speaking to families of missing people, Oscar Montes de Oca, the head prosecutor of the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo pledged to carry out more searches and identifications.
The bodies were found in searches over the weekend in which police looked in wooded lots and even sinkhole ponds known as cenotes.
After the bodies were found, state authorities issued a statement on Facebook, urging people “not to publish and share on social networks false news that only damages the image of Quintana Roo.”
More than 112,000 people are listed as missing in Mexico, and searches for clandestine grave sites have become common throughout the country. What is unusual is that they are now being carried out in Cancun, the crown jewel of Mexico’s tourism industry.
The clandestine body dumping grounds are often used by drug cartels to dispose of bodies of their victims. Several cartels are fighting for control of the Caribbean coast and its lucrative retail drug trade. The lack of help from officials has left many family members to take up search efforts for their missing loved ones themselves, often forming volunteer search teams known as “colectivos.”
Montes de Oca said five of the bodies were found at a building site that had apparently been abandoned. The bodies had been dumped there between one week and two months ago; three have been identified as people reported missing previously.
At another site in a wooded area on the outskirts of Cancun, authorities found three sets of skeletal remains. They have not yet been identified.
The bodies were found in a poor neighborhood about 10 miles from Cancun’s beach and hotel zone, but relatively closer to the resort’s airport.
Similar searches were also carried out in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, a town south of Tulum.
Volunteer searchers, including the relatives of missing people, and specially trained dogs also participated with investigators in the searches.
Feuding drug gangs have caused violence in Cancun and the resort-studded Caribbean coast south of it.
Earlier this month, four men in Cancun were killed in a dispute related to drug gang rivalries. The dead men were found in the city’s hotel zone near the beach.
A U.S. tourist was shot in the leg in the nearby town of Puerto Morelos in March. The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert that month warning travelers to “exercise increased caution,” especially after dark, at resorts like Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
That warning came in the wake of the kidnapping of four Americans in Mexico earlier this month. The State Department posted a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory for Tamaulipas, the Mexican state the Americans were in when they were kidnapped.
In June 2022, two Canadians were killed in Playa del Carmen, apparently because of debts between international drug and weapons trafficking gangs. Last January, two other Canadians were killed and one injured in a shooting at a resort near Cancun.
In March 2022, a British resident of Playa del Carmen was shot and killed in broad daylight while traveling with his daughter in his car.
In October 2021, farther south in the laid-back destination of Tulum, two tourists – one a California travel blogger born in India and the other German – were killed when they apparently were caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between rival drug dealers.
The following month, two suspected drug dealers were killed in a shooting that sent tourists in swimsuits fleeing in panic from a beach near Cancun.