& OTHER GEAR
drugs & rock 'n' roll made me crazythank God!
An Erotic Novel
How we lost the right to feel.
Go to the beach.
Literary Love Affair
by Jules Siegel
Part Three: The
Myth of the Narco-Resort
in Marc Cooper's The
Nation story is so infuriatingly deceptive that it sounds
like McCarthyism: "The current mayor's brother, a prominent
hotel operator, has also done prison time on money-laundering charges,
and experts say Cancún is still a major transit point for
the drug trade."
in question was accused of selling a small hotel to a suspected
(not convicted) drug dealer. He made no attempt to hide this. All
funds were transferred through his regular commercial accounts and
the deal was registered with Hacienda (the Treasury). There was
no evidence of any kind linking him to any illicit activities. He
was held for about a year and half and found innocent. One of the
other three principal defendants was found innocent of all charges
after having been held in Mexico's maximum security Almoloya prison
for almost two years.
The third defendant,
former state governor Mario Villanueva Madrid, became rich on the
bribes for the privatization of the Cancun water and garbage systems,
and selling permissions to construct hotels in what is now called
the Riviera Maya. He got on the wrong side of then-president Ernesto
Zedillo, openly defied the PRI national executive committee, and
was punished for disobedience by being prosecuted for supposedly
helping cocaine dealers. Since drug trafficking control is a Federal
function that the local police are forbidden to touch, it's not
clear what he did exactly. The state's best witnesses retracted
their testimony and said that they had been pressured and threatened.
As part of the
prosecution, Zedillo sent a crack team of dozens of Federal agents
with law degrees here. They interrogated hundreds of people. Despite
the almost servile cooperation of Mexico's court system in major
drug cases, they failed to produce a single important conviction,
and they have never demonstrated any evidence that cocaine money
financed a single Cancun hotel. Villanueva has not yet been convicted
of anything, and some of the principal charges have been dismissed,
but he is still being held in Almoloya under very harsh conditions.
unnamed "experts" who say that Cancun is a major transit
point for cocaine It's not true. All cocaine smuggling takes place
in the unpopulated southern regions of Quintana Roo. There's too
much heat in Cancun for this sort of thing.
"one Cancún businessman, 49-year-old Armando Rangel
Diaz," as "the great-grandson of a former president of
Mexico." The most likely candidate for this ancestor would
be Porfirio Díaz, the ruthless dictator who was overthrown
at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. If so, this is a little
like identifying a Herr Schickelgruber as the descendent of a former
German chancellor. Did Cooper know who the former president was?
If so, why didn't me identify him by name?
Mr. Rangel Díaz
reports, "We have half the population without sewers, but we
have 7,000 liquor stores, half of them clandestine, 4,000 prostitutes
who each pay the police $10 a month and 400 crack houses that also
produce about $2 million a month in police protection money. Do
you think this is just?"
Crack is not
available in Cancun. Freebase (often called crack although it's
a different form of ccoaine) can be obtained, but the main product,
as everywhere, is the one-gram packet of heavily cut cocaine. Cocaine
is dealt by individuals. There are no crack houses where destitute
cocaine users live together and deal. Liquor stores are a dreadful
problem, but people do like to drink. It's not clear whether he's
annoyed about the number of prostitutes or the bribes. Prostitution
in Mexico legal but soliciting and pimping are crimes. Bribery is
illegal, of course, but not exactly a novel feature of Mexican culture.
irrelevance, he says, "Do you think this is fair treatment
by a $10 billion industry?"
does attract prostitution, but if it's not a crime, why bring it
up? The health authorities do their best to make sure that prostitutes
come in for checks and receive their credentials. Some prefer to
pay bribes to the police when caught without them. What can the
Hotel Association can do something about this? One is tempted to
ask Rangel Díaz whether or not he's ever paid a bribe himself
or visited a prostitute.
He also complains
bitterly about corruption in the schools and the lack of public
libraries. The "voluntary" quotas as a sore point for
parents, but they are mostly used to provide maintenance and other
services that the educational authorities do not provide. Principals
and other school officials who mismanage these funds have been arrested
on the complaints of the affected parents groups. With the new term
beginning, no child in Cancun is without place in a public school.
The schools are not lavish by any means, but all three of my children
attended public schools in Cancun and received a more than adequate
education. My daughter, Faera, who lived with us here for ten years,
returned to the United States and passed the GED in the first percentile.
She was accepted by NYU and is now a court interpreter in the Bay
The public library
issue sounds great, except for the fact that although the country
is anywhere from 85-95% literate, Mexicans don't read very much.
All the daily newspapers in Mexico City (23 at last count) do not
add up to a million copies a day. Reforma, the country's largest
newspaper, sells less than 300,000 daily. Only one major bookstore
has managed to survive here. There's a religious bookstore, one
that sells accounting manuals, and there are small book sections
(mostly technical) in a few other business establishments. But taking
him at face value, what has he himself done about this other than
commission a study? The American public library system was essentially
created by Andrew Carnegie's philanthropy.
Summing up: This
is just a hatchet job on Cancun. It seems that even leftists are prejudiced
against Mexicans whether they live in the United States or Mexico.
They are required to be campesinos and wear sombreros and sleep under
cacti. They don't all want to do that. They want to live in cement
houses and have high speed Internet connections and go to discos.
They think that Cancun is just great, but a little screwed up, and
its needs should be taken more seriously by the federal government.
Meanwhile, Cancun is the one place in Mexico that's importing rather
than exporting people. It's not perfect. Therefore, it's bad. What
kind of reporting is that?
Cancun is an entirely home-grown Mexican solution to otherwise
intractable unemployment in the Yucatan Peninsula. It's worked very
well. The social and environmental costs are significant, but everything
has a price, a cost and a value. Cancun's value far outweighs its
I do share the very great concern in Cancun about the fragility
of our environment, which is very delicately balanced and could
tip over into the disaster that people like Marc Cooper are already
The RIU hotel chain was recently fined more than $3.5 million for
building an entire hotel without permission as an annex to a new
hotel for which they did have permission. The local federal environment
director was relieved among accusations that he had taken bribes
in this and other situations. The Fox administration has turned
out to be quite a disappointment environmentally. The previous president,
Ernesto Zedillo was an avid SCUBA diver who often visited Cancun
and intervened very decisively to protect the lagoons and the ocean.
I can't stand even looking the hotel RIU built because it is sickeningly
grotesque and out of scale. At the same time, I have friends who
have small businesses nearby that have struggled to survive for
the past few years because of the competition from newer shopping
centers. They love the new hotel because it's bringing them customers.
Fonatur now wants to develop the third and final stage of the island.
A giant project on the mainland called Puerto Cancun proposes cutting
canals into the mangroves to make room for new boat slips. These
projects will be subjected to very intense and well-deserved public
scrutiny in the coming months. Whether or not they go ahead as planned
or are modified, we need a really serious investment in correcting
both existing environmental problems and those that are on the horizon.
Marc Cooper's article was disappointing because he attacked Cancun
as a social entity. Maybe he thought he was helping us. He could
have been a lot more useful had he recognized that Cancun is basically
a good place that's in grave danger of being overwhelmed by greed.
We need serious coverage of the points I raise above, not a viciously
unfair and inaccurate hatchet job.
Bashing is in Season
The $7.50 Ice Cream Cone
3: The Myth
of the Narco-Resort
4: An Open Letter
to The Nation's Marc Cooper
CANCUN USER'S GUIDE
Fruits & Vegetables
Zona de Tolerancia
Words to live by.