DALLAS – A bomb was detonated and another planted on Mexican tourist ferries in recent weeks by drug cartels. That’s because the ferry owner supported the wrong presidential candidate, according to an intelligence expert.
"The information I have received is that they are sending a message to the owners of the ferries – who is the son of the former governor of Quintana Roo – to get on board with the PRI and support [Manlio Fabio] Beltrones who is from Sonora,” said Phil Jordan, a former DEA supervisor who now operates his own intelligence firm. "Go with our candidate or we will continue bombing your business.”
On February 21, a bomb detonated on a ferry in Playa del Carmen, injuring two dozen people including several Americans.
On March 1, Mexican Navy divers found an undetonated bomb on another ferry parked off-shore in the same city.
Both events were reported, but a motive was not known until now.
"When you compare the Al Qaeda with the type of terrorism that's happening right now in Mexico, there's really not that much difference because the innocents are being killed," Jordan said.
Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Cozumel – all within a few miles of each other – are some of Mexico's biggest destinations, reportedly bringing in up to a third of that country's total tourism income.
Other Mexican cities have always faced violence from drug cartels, but the groups have seldom targeted tourist towns, until now.
Those areas are generally protected, Jordan explained, because they’ve always been moneymakers in Mexico.
"Should I travel to Mexico? My immediate answer is no,” he added. "As a parent, I would not allow my kids to go there. I'll send them to Hawaii, I'll send them to Florida. I'm not saying violence couldn't happen there. But the point of the matter is that in Mexico right now, collateral damage is not a problem."
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico warned its own employees last week to avoid ferries.
“U.S. Government employees are prohibited from using all tourist ferries on this route until further notice,” the alert read.
But American tourists did not receive the same notice from the U.S. State Department.
"How convenient it was for the Embassy in Mexico to warn the workers there, but the warning didn't go to the Mexico tourists who are going over there,” Jordan said. “You've gotta warn everybody. Not just the embassy workers."
Last month, Royal Caribbean and Carnival canceled shore excursions that used ferries in Playa del Carmen. However, both cruise lines carefully avoided the reason why.
"It's getting worse by the day,” Jordan said. “When you have – this year – the deadliest year that I can remember but no publicity has come out of that. Something is wrong with the picture.”
In the last decade, murders in Mexico have more than tripled. In 2007, the Mexican government reported 8,867 homicides.
Last year, the number of murders jumped to 29,168. That's about twice as many as the number last year in the United States.
A travel agent in Southlake said she hasn’t received calls of concern or cancelations for trips to Mexico. But a Dallas insurance agent said she is seeing something else - an increase in the number of customers interested in buying coverage for kidnapping and ransom.
"Absolutely, people are more concerned about it,” said Ashleigh Trent, Swingle Collins & Associates.
It's no longer just companies purchasing these specialty policies.
"I'm seeing more interest in people actually purchasing them for their own families because they are fearful of what's going to happen if their kids are not being watched every single second while they're on that trip,” Trent said.
A policy with a million-dollar in coverage costs less than a thousand dollars, she continued, and it follows them wherever they go.