Mexico Removes Cops From Popular Tourist Destination Tulum During a Surge in Violence

A tornado of negative press has engulfed the beach town in recent weeks because of an uptick in violence and abuse of authority.
April 12, 2021, 5:58pm
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Demonstrators place flowers next to graffiti that says "Justice for Victoria" during a protest in Mexico City on March 29, 2021, for the death of Salvadoran migrant Victoria Esperanza Salazar, who was subdued by the police in Tulum. Photo by PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images.

MEXICO CITY - In light of several recent cases of abuse by local law enforcement in Tulum, the state government just removed all the local police from duty. 

Few places in Mexico are as renowned by international travelers as the idyllic beachside town on the Caribbean coast, but a tornado of negative press related to an uptick in violence and abuse of authority has engulfed Tulum in recent weeks. 

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The decision about the removal of the municipal police came on the heels of a video spreading through social media showing an officer punching a handcuffed man, just weeks after another that showed police killing a woman in custody.

The acting police chief for the state of Quintana Roo, Lucio Hernández Gutiérrez, announced in a press conference that state police will take over duties in Tulum while the municipal cops are sent for retraining.

He did not hold back when chastising the local cops for their “constant and intolerable acts” and the “lack of control of individual impulses in restraining people.” Hernández Gutiérrez then said that officers who did not pass the training course would be fired.

Police in Tulum became the focus of both national and international condemnation after a Salvadoran refugee named Victoria Esperanza Salazar died on March 27 when an officer knelt on her back in an incident similar to the death of George Floyd in the United States. All four officers who were involved in the incident now faces charges related to her death. 

Following Salazar’s death, a second video went viral of a handcuffed man being forcibly pushed into the back of a police truck then struck several times by officers on April 6.

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Tulum's reputation has also been hit by reports of an increase in gang violence, allegedly connected to the local drug market. On March 28, human body parts were discovered near a popular swimming hole in Tulum called Laguna Kaan Luum with a message linking the corpse to an organized crime dispute.

Later that same day, gunshots rang out on Tulum's main downtown street in an area filled with both tourists and locals that left one dead and three injured in front of a bar named Xibalbar. 

A recent news report from Mexican news outlet Reforma cited information from state authorities alleging that at least five criminal groups operate in Tulum, including the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and a faction of the Zetas. The disposable income brought by tourists and a popular culture of late-night partying has added value to the local drug market where cocaine and marijuana are in high demand.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador expressed his support for Quintana Roo state authorities assuming control of policing duties in Tulum in his daily morning news conference on April 12, and said that the federal government was willing to help with training if asked.

“When it comes to municipal police that have become rotten, there must be intervention,” said López Obrador. “Not to generalize, because there are good police. Not all cops are corrupt, violent, or torture.”

“But when there’s not trust in the municipal police, the state government must step in. And that’s what they’re doing in Tulum to guarantee the safety of the people, to guarantee that these unfortunate events are not repeated.”