CANCUN, Mexico (AP) — Behind the glitzy playgrounds of Cancun is a growing drug war, fueled by widespread police corruption, the partial disruption of once-popular trafficking routes through Haiti and a sudden turf battle between two of the country’s main drug gangs.
Three years after authorities thought they broke up the cocaine trade here, nine people have turned up dead, revealing a smuggling ring involving corruption at all levels of government and taking even federal investigators by surprise.
The discovery brings back memories of the dark days of the 1990s, when one gang — the Juarez cartel — moved huge amounts of cocaine along Mexico’s Caribbean coast, allegedly with the protection of the state’s former governor, Mario Villanueva, arrested in 2001 on drug charges.
But now, a shadowy chain of events involving several gangs has led to the killing of three federal agents and two police informants, the kidnapping and wounding of two federal investigators and the discovery of four as yet unidentified bodies in the trunk of a burned car.
More than a dozen local and federal police agents have been arrested — including the wounded pair — adding to mounting evidence that police, business and local power figures are linked to the drug trade.
“It’s like a little game to see who can get the drugs first” between the army, the navy, or traffickers in speed boats, said Donald Morgan, a fisherman and tour guide who moved to the coast from Washington state in 1976.