MEXICO CITY (AP) — Authorities in Cancun, Mexico said Tuesday they are trying to identify eight bodies found dumped in the popular tourist region.
Speaking to families of missing people, Oscar Montes de Oca, the head prosecutor of the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo pledged to carry out more searches and identifications.
The bodies were found in searches over the weekend in which police looked in wooded lots and even sinkhole ponds known as cenotes.
More than 112,000 people are listed as missing in Mexico, and searches for clandestine grave sites have become common throughout the country. What is unusual is that they are now being carried out in Cancun, the crown jewel of Mexico’s tourism industry.
The clandestine body dumping grounds are often used by drug cartels to dispose of bodies of their victims. Several cartels are fighting for control of the Caribbean coast and its lucrative retail drug trade.
Montes de Oca said five of the bodies were found at a building site that had apparently been abandoned. The bodies had been dumped there between one week and two months ago; three have been identified as people reported missing previously.
At another site in a wooded area on the outskirts of Cancun, authorities found three sets of skeletal remains. They have not yet been identified.
The bodies were found in a poor neighborhood about 10 miles (15 kilometers) from Cancun’s beach and hotel zone, but relatively closer to the resort’s airport.
Similar searches were also carried out in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, a town south of Tulum.
Volunteer searchers, including the relatives of missing people, and specially trained dogs also participated with investigators in the searches.
Feuding drug gangs have caused violence in Cancun and the resort-studded Caribbean coast south of it.
Earlier this month, four men in Cancun were killed in a dispute related to drug gang rivalries. The dead men were found in the city’s hotel zone near the beach.
A U.S. tourist was shot in the leg in the nearby town of Puerto Morelos in March. The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert that month warning travelers to “exercise increased caution,” especially after dark, at resorts like Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
In 2022, two Canadians were killed in Playa del Carmen, apparently because of debts between international drug and weapons trafficking gangs.
In 2021, in Tulum, two tourists — one a California travel blogger born in India and the other German — were killed when they apparently were caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between rival drug dealers.