Mexico deploying National Guard troops to Riviera Maya

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Tulum [Credit: Jess Kraft/Shutterstock.com]
The Mexican town of Tulum on the Caribbean coast. Photo Credit: Jess Kraft/Shutterstock

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Mexico will deploy a battalion of National Guard troops to the Riviera Maya in the wake of shootings that have put the crown jewel of the country's tourism industry on edge.

Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval, speaking Wednesday in Cancun, said that 1,445 guard members will be sent to Quintana Roo state's Caribbean coast to reinforce the region's security. The deployment will include the establishment of a base in the beach town of Tulum, where two foreign tourists were killed and three wounded Oct. 20 in a crossfire between drug dealers.

He said the Navy would contribute an additional 100 elements to the effort and increase intelligence gathering efforts in the area.

The additional security will begin operations by Dec. 1, Sandoval said.

The more recent incident was a Nov. 4 shootout on a beach in Puerto Morelos south of Cancun, involving a squad of armed men that left two alleged drug dealers dead. The daytime bloodshed sent tourists scrambling for cover at two large hotels where local drug gangs were apparently competing for drug sales.

"That can't happen again," Mexico president Andrés Manuel López Obrador said. "We have to avoid that happening. That's why there's this plan to reinforce security."

Earlier this month, Quintana Roo state prosecutor Oscar Montes de Oca said authorities had detected 12 gangs running street-level drug sales in Tulum and Puerto Morelos.

Mexico has continued to struggle with stubbornly high levels of violence through the first three years of López Obrador's administration. He has been criticized for his heavy reliance on the military rather than reformed policing, while also insisting that a previous strategy of pursuing drug kingpins was mistaken.

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