Breaking: Mexican Cartels Target US Tourists

Breaking: Mexican Cartels Target US Tourists

By May Wilkerson 08/03/12

Vacationers in a previously peaceful tourist hot spot in Sonora are hit by the violence that's familiar to the rest of the country.

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Puerto Peñasco is a popular destination.
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American tourists flocking to Mexico's touristy areas for a "relaxing" summer vacation have recently been targeted by the country's violent drug traffickers. Most recently, tourists in hot spot Puerto Peñasco, in the state of Sonora, have received a warning about a local cartel shoot-out on July 19, as well as various recent attacks targeting Americans. One US citizen was wounded during a home invasion, while in a separate incident a number of vacationers were held at gunpoint and robbed—drug gangs were blamed for both. "We're not telling people not to go to Rocky Point…we’re just alerting them to what happened,” says consulate official Chad Cummins. More than 50,000 people have lost their lives as drug cartels battle for control of regions in Mexico—but despite this, the country's tourism industry has thrived, reaching a record high of 22.7 million foreign visitors in 2011. This has been able to happen because much of the violence has been clustered in border-towns like Juarez, leaving tourist-laden areas like Sonora in relative peace. But this could be changing—with suggestions of a possible turf battle emerging in the area. “You don't see someone take out a bunch of people...unless one of two things is happening: a problem within the cartel or another cartel creeping into the territory," says retired DEA agent Anthony Coulson. Local officials dismiss this possibility. Fernando Soto, Puerto Peñasco's director of international relations, claims, “This was an isolated incident that took place far from the tourist areas."