Extreme drug cartel violence is ruining everyone's Spring Break plans
Spring Break in a foreign country is Rowdy bars, limes and small swimsuits. Plus consequence-free partying — no cops, no parents. The biggest disaster is usually stage diving naked and having nobody catch you.
But in Mexico, where the American-initiated War on Drugs has killed 200,000, the State Department warns that increasing violence is trickling out from the border toward Los Cabos, Cancun and other popular Spring Break destinations like drool from a passed-out kid’s face.
No Americans have died yet. But cartel violence is creeping closer. In Los Cabos, cops unearthed 14 dead bodies near a marine preserve and a bag full of body parts on the road leading to the tourist district. In Cancun, a shootout in a nightclub left three dead.
The irony here is that, the authorities are there, they’re doing something about it. These areas aren’t getting more dangerous because they failed. It’s because they succeeded.
Two years ago, Mexican authorities arrested Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the billionaire head of the dominant Sinaloan Cartel. It ran heroin, laundered money and smote rivals. El Chapo’s tyranny was so total it enforced a kind of peace — the Pax Sinaloa — the way a high school with one gang is safer than a high school where two cliques fight.
Now El Chapo sits in solitary confinement in a cell in New York, and his cartel continues to disintegrate. And what did all the leaderless minions do? Open up knitting stores and become kindergarten teachers? They did not.
Last year was Mexico’s most murderous in 20 years, with 29,000 merked across the country. Violence is up by as much as 60 percent in the region El Chapo controlled. And no boss moved harder toward El Chapo’s empty throne than Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera, leader of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and perhaps the most ruthless drug lord since Pablo Escobar.
His cartel is the ISIS of Mexico. Where the Sinaloans would shoot a cop, the New Generation will down an Army helicopter with a rocket propelled grenade. Where El Chapo’s dudes would kill your wife to send a warning, El Mencho’s squad will violate your children and burn them alive.
And where El Chapo’s crew ran weed, cocaine and heroin made from plants, El Mencho’s cartel churns out meth and fentanyl using cheap chemicals imported from Asia. Then they get manked on their own meth — paranoid and aggressive.
In Spring Break in cartel land, the dominant groups demand protection money from taxi drivers and restaurant owners, and vaporize those who don’t cough up. They’re not unreasonable: they’re said to give seasonal discounts on extortion rates during the off-season.
El Mencho even kidnapped El Chapo’s sons in a swank restaurant in the heart of Puerto Vallarta’s top tourist area. Just to show he could. If El Mencho can establish complete control, peace of mind might return. Mexico sort of hopes so: foreign vacationers spend $20 billion a year.
Juarez and Tijuana — once party towns for teens — are now about as deadly as Afghanistan. And Acapulco, once a favorite retreat for Sinatra and Elvis, is now the defending murder capital of Mexico. The three towns can only watch as tourist counts decline.
Mexico is still safe overall for Americans. But if the ruckus roils, students might change their plans from Mazatlan to Alaska or Quebec — no matter how cold their nipples get during wet t-shirt contests.