Cartel Violence Is Getting Out of Control in Mexico’s Tulum Resort Area

Playa del Carmen has become one of the top tourist destinations in Mexico. But at the same time it has become a major hub for drug distribution.
Soldiers on patrol, protecting the public beach of Tulum on April 08, 2021 on Tulum, Mexico. (Photo: Ilan Deutsch/Paris Match via Getty Images)

As a tourist destination, Playa del Carmen in the resort area of Tulum is booming, but so too is cartel violence.

On Saturday, four local city employees were found shot dead and stuffed inside a vehicle, their bodies showing signs of torture, according to authorities

The horrific discovery was made by local traffic police officers in a middle-class neighborhood of the city. Authorities in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo said they are investigating the murders but didn’t offer any other details as of why or who could be behind the killings. 


The men were part of Playa del Carmen’s municipal inspection office, which is in charge of enforcing the law against the use or sales of drugs, underage attendees and city permits for restaurants, bars and other commercial establishments. 

Playa del Carmen has become one of the top tourist destinations in Mexico for U.S. and Canada visitors. But at the same time it has become a major hub for drug distribution, attracting international drug traffickers to operate in the region, engaging in violent gun fights

Authorities have identified four drug cartels operating in the greater Cancún region: the Sinaloa Cartel, the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (CJNG for its acronym in Spanish), the Gulf Cartel and a smaller organization known as Grupo Regional, a cartel formed of former Zetas cartel members and local street gangs. 

In 2022 two Canadians were shot dead at a top-ranked hotel in Playa del Carmen sparking fear amongst tourists and uncovering the drug-related violence in the region. 

At the time, Mexican authorities deployed several hundreds National Guard members to patrol the beach side in an attempt to control another violent attack. 

In the same year, Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador launched a campaign aimed to stop tourists from using drugs at Quintana Roo beaches. 

“Don’t put yourself at risk. Drug dealers at beaches and nightclubs will get you into trouble. They are not your friends. They’re criminals,” reads the warning that’s being handed out at every hotel in the state of Quintana Roo, where Tulum and Cancun are located. All visitors are required to sign before checking in. 

Tourist destinations like Tulum, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen are known to cater to the drug market for foreign visitors, who often have more money to spend than locals do.