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Los Cabos: 3 dismembered bodies discovered, as narco war continues in region

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Chivis Martinez for Borderland Beat
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On Sunday, “hieleras” (ice coolers) were discovered containing dismembered remains.  The grisly contents were discarded in the heart of the tourist section of the popular vacation destination of Cabo San Lucas (Baja California Sur). Marking the first such violence in the tourist area.

The remains of two male and one female have not been identified.

On March 3 and 4, six bodies were found in an area close to Cabo San Lucas.  An uptick in violence in the region has been noted in the last five months,  near the tourist areas, but the Sunday find, the first that hit the heart of the tourism area.

On Thursday March 3 and Friday March 4th


A female body found on a desolate area leading to the airport.

3 Bodies, all male, discovered shrouded in plastic and covered with a tarp found in San Jose del Cabo.  Bodies revealed signs of torture


Two bodies, a male and a female, were found near airport.  Both bodies had bullet impacts

Although there is a notable increase in violence and homicides in the area, the crime rate in Cabo tourist areas remains extremely low, even by U.S.  standards.

The uptick began 2 ½ years ago, and is the result of conflict for plaza control between cartels. La Paz has carried the bulk of the violence. Read more on the conflict between the Cartels of Sinaloa, Beltran Leyva Organization in a de facto alliance with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada and Los Zetas, and the Arellano Felix Organization, fighting for La Paz, where the bulk of the violence is.  Link here to Otis’ post on the subject.

Cabo San Lucas has consistently been one of the safest travel destinations in Mexico, and is rated one of the top 10 places to visit in Mexico.  It is the number 1 on the west coast.

In 2016 there was a dramatic decrease in American homicides in Mexico.  There were a total of 75, with 28 occurring in Chihuahua. 

Homicides of Americans  in Los Cabos Region

According to the U.S. State Department, in 10 years, the years of 2006-2016, a total of 3 homicides against Americans in the Los Cabos region occurred (see highlighted area on map).   The homicides were 3 in total, with 1 in three separate years, 2014, 2015, and one in 2016. 

From Baja Insider:  “The first two months of 2017 saw Los Cabos (refer to map to see full cabos area) become the homicide capital of Baja California Sur. In one week more than 37 cartel executions took place in the state, but virtually transparent to visitors and residents, as they were discovered as body drops. The following week 200 Federal Police were brought into the state. One attack on a suspected cartel member’s home involved the use of a 50mm grenade launcher.

March 12 saw the year’s first open gun battle to be witnessed by travelers when a suspect was being apprehended in a major Los Cabos resort. Visitors scurried for cover as a chase by federal police resulted in gunfire in the lobby. The event made national and international news and will be a black eye for the Los Cabos tourist industry.”

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain parts of Mexico due to the activities of criminal organizations in those areas. U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery in various Mexican states. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mexico, issued April 15, 2016. Gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities have taken place on streets and in public places during broad daylight. The Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations and has engaged in an extensive effort to counter criminal organizations that engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico. There is no evidence that criminal organizations have targeted U.S. citizens based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from patronizing casinos, sportsbooks, or other gambling establishments in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Colima, and Nayarit.   Kidnappings in Mexico take the following forms: Traditional: the victim is physically abducted and held captive until a ransom is paid for release.Express: the victim is abducted for a short time and commonly forced to withdraw money, usually from an ATM, then released.Virtual: an extortion-by-deception scheme where a victim is contacted by phone and coerced by threats of violence to provide phone numbers of family and friends, and then isolated until the ransom is paid. Recently, hotel guests have been targets of such “virtual” kidnapping schemes.U.S. citizens have been murdered in carjacking and highway robberies, most frequently at night and on isolated roads. Carjackers use a variety of techniques, including roadblocks, bumping/moving vehicles to force them to stop, and running vehicles off the road at high speeds. There are indications that criminals target newer and larger vehicles, but drivers of old sedans and buses coming from the United States are also targeted. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from intercity travel after dark in many areas of Mexico. U.S. citizens should use toll roads (cuotas) whenever possible. In remote areas, cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent.The Mexican government has deployed federal police and military personnel throughout the country as part of its efforts to combat organized criminal groups. U.S. citizens traveling on Mexican roads and highways by car or bus may encounter government checkpoints, staffed by military or law enforcement personnel. In some places, criminal organizations have erected their own unauthorized checkpoints, at times wearing police and military uniforms, and have killed or abducted motorists who have failed to stop at them. You should cooperate at all checkpoints.

Personally I would still not hesitate to visit Cabo.  I would be much more hesitant in doing so with respect to Northern Baja, T.J, Playa del Rosarito etc.  However, security/insecurity is fluid in Mexico, with warring between cartels providing an ever changing landscape.  Be aware, “know before you go”, keep current with warnings, even reading regional news, contact your embassy for the up to date information.  Share your itinerary with the embassy, and a trusted person at home.   There are many tips available on line, including at  and using this link. 


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