Mexico’s violent drug war has expanded outside of the border cities such as Ciudad Juárez and Reynosa and into the country’s tourist hotspots.
In the last year both Acapulco and Veracruz have seen bloody massacres occur on their streets and now with the popular Sonora beach resort of Puerto Peñasco is in the crosshairs, the United States is taking notice.
On Tuesday, the U.S. consulate in Nogales sent a message to Americans living in the area to warn them about a rash of shooting and assault – including two home invasions – targeting American citizens.
"We're not telling people not to go to Rocky Point," said Chad Cummins, the U.S. consul in Nogales, according to the Arizona Republic. "We're just alerting citizens to what happened and reiterating the February travel warning."The February warning recommended limiting travel to main roads during daylight hours and using the Sonoyta border crossing when traveling to Rocky Point, as Puerto Peñasco.
The U.S. warning said that even though the Mexican government takes considerable steps to protect American citizens from organized crime groups, U.S. citizens have fallen victim to drug cartel activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery.
A recent assault in the area left a U.S. citizen severely injured and a home invasion occurred in which adults and children were held at gunpoint while the house was robbed and a woman was sexually assaulted.
On July 19 a gunflight in Puerto Peñasco left six people dead, including José Ramon Sabori Cisneros, the brother of Raul "El Negro" Sabori Cisneros who was considered by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to be one of the Sinaloa cartel's top operatives until his arrest in Hermosillo last year.
Local leaders and business owners in the area hope that the shootout and string of assaults are isolated incidents and not indicators of more violence to come. Also despite the shootings, tourism in the region has increased 22 percent in July from the same time last year.
"This was an isolated incident that took place far from the tourist areas," Fernando Soto, Puerto Peñasco's director of international relations, told the Arizona Republic. "It hasn't affected tourism at all. Our hotels were full again last weekend."