Over the past three weeks, I’ve received dozens of emails from readers asking what I thought about the explosion aboard a ferry in Playa del Carmen.
Although I normally don’t write blog posts about current events, I’m going to make an exception in this case because there is so much misinformation being circulated on the Internet about the incident.
The Explosion that Started it All
On February 21st, there was an explosion on a passenger ferry in Playa del Carmen that had just arrived from Cozumel. The explosion occurred after the passengers had left the vessel; however, more than two dozen people who were on the pier at the time were injured by flying debris.
It was soon determined that the explosion was not accidental and that an explosive device had been placed on the top deck of the vessel.
Now, this is where the “misinformation” part comes in. If this incident had occurred in England or France, the news outlets would have been speculating that blast was the result of terrorism at the hands of religious zealots, but when the blast occurs in Mexico — well, then it must be “narco-terrorism”.
I read several news stories from the United States about the ferry explosion that included unrelated statistical information about narco-violence and homicide rates across the country.
This story line got a boost on February 27th when a blanket with a message was found hanging on the fence of a church in Cozumel. It had a message claiming that a local criminal group was responsible for the blast and they included a threat against the mayor of Cozumel.
As a former cop with 25 years of investigative experience, I could not have been more skeptical at that point.
It doesn’t make sense that a criminal organization — whose ultimate goal is to make money — would plant a bomb in a popular tourist area. It would scare away their customers (i.e. the tourists) and bring a lot of additional police to the area.
Although I had no evidence to support my belief, I suspected that the message was just a way to capitalize on the media hype and divert attention away from the true suspects.
This case was starting to resemble a plot from a James Patterson novel.
The Plot Thickens
On March 1st, divers located an explosive device on a vessel belonging to the same ferry company, Barcos Caribe. The vessel was docked 500 meters off the shore of Cozumel and had not been used in the past 10 months.
Since all of the incidents involve the same company, the investigation has focused heavily on Barcos Caribe and one of the owners, Roberto Borge Martín. He is the father of the former governor of Quintana Roo, Roberto Borge Angulo, who is currently incarcerated on charges of embezzlement.
There is quite a bit of speculation that the motive was insurance fraud since the family is having financial difficulties due to the pending criminal charges.
The insurance fraud hypothesis was bolstered by an article from news correspondent Raúl Rodríguez Cortés of El Universal on March 7th.
The reporter claims that there is a video in the hands of the investigators that shows Roberto Borge Martín boarding the ferry in Cozumel with an unknown man carrying a backpack. When the ferry arrived in Playa del Carmen, Roberto Borge Martín hurried off of the ferry and the unknown man was seen leaving without his backpack.
This case is still under investigation but I expect a few more twists and turns before it’s all over.
Just to Be Clear
I know that some readers just skim through articles looking for key points, so I wanted to make this one very clear:
Authorities have publicly ruled out the possibility of terrorism or that the incident was perpetrated by drug cartels or organized crime.
So, please disregard any earlier articles to the contrary that continue to be circulated on social media.
Let’s Wrap This Up
The U.S. Department of State still has a travel advisory prohibiting U.S. government personnel from using the ferries but I predict that will be lifted as soon as the case is closed.
Meanwhile, security has been increased at the ferry and thousands of people continue to use it daily without any issues whatsoever.
This article still doesn’t address all of the safety/security questions that we’ve received from readers. There is still the matter of the cryptic U.S. travel advisory related to select neighborhoods in Playa del Carmen. I’ll address that one in a future post.
UPDATE 03/18/18:The U.S. Department of State cancelled both travel advisories. You can read more about that HERE.