TSX High Income Energy CDN Index (TXHE) Quote - Press Release (2024)

Mark Stevenson - Associated Press - Sat Jan 27, 2:26PM CST

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s government has acknowledged that at least two well-known Mayan ruin sites are unreachable by visitors because of a toxic mix of cartel violence and land disputes.

But two tourist guides in the southern state of Chiapas, near the border with Guatemala, say two other sites that the government claims are still open to visitors can only be reached by passing though drug gang checkpoints.

The explosion of drug cartel violence in Chiapas since last year has left the Yaxchilán ruin site completely cut off, the government conceded Friday.

The tour guides, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they must still work in the area, said that gunmen and checkpoints are often seen on the road to another site, Bonampak, famous for its murals.

They say that to get to yet another archaeological site, Lagartero, travelers are forced to hand over identification and cellphones at cartel checkpoints.

Meanwhile, officials concede that visitors also can't go to the imposing, towering pyramids at Tonina, because a landowner has shut off across his land while seeking payment from the government for granting the right of way.

The cartel-related dangers are the most problematic. The two cartels warring over the area's lucrative drug and migrant smuggling routes set up the checkpoints to detect any movement by their rivals.

Though no tourist has been harmed so far, and the government claims the sites are safe, many guides no longer take tour groups there.

“It’s as if you told me to go to the Gaza Strip, right?” said one of the guides.

“They demand your identification, to see if you're a local resident,” he said, describing an almost permanent gang checkpoint on the road to Lagartero, a Mayan pyramid complex that is surrounded by pristine, turquoise jungle lagoons.

“They take your cellphone and demand your sign-in code, and then they look through your conversations to see if you belong to some other gang,” he said. “At any given time, a rival group could show up and start a gunbattle.”

The government seems unconcerned, and there is even anger that anyone would suggest there is a problem, in line with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's policy of playing down gang violence — even as the cartels take over more territory in Mexico.

“Bonampak and Lagartero are open to the public,” the National Institute of Anthropology and History said in a statement Friday.

“It is false, biased and irresponsible to say that these archaeological sites are in danger from drug traffickers,” added the agency, known as the INAH, which claimed it “retains control of the sites.”

Both guides stressed that the best-known Mayan ruin site in Chiapas, the imposing temple complex at Palenque, is open and perfectly safe for visitors. But starting around December, tourists have canceled about 5% of trips booked to the area, and there are fears that could grow.

Things that some tourists once enjoyed — like the more adventurous trip to ruins buried deep in the jungle, like Yaxchilán, on the banks of the Usumacinta river and reachable only by boat — are either no longer possible, or so risky that several guides have publicly announced they won't take tourists there.

Residents of the town of Frontera Comalapa, where the boats once picked up tourists to take them to Yaxchilan, closed the road in October because of constant incursions by gunmen.

Even the INAH admits there is no access to Yaxchilan, noting that “the institute itself has recommended at certain points that tourists not go to the archaeological site, because they could have an unsuccessful visit.” But it said that the problems there are “of a social nature” and are beyond its control.

Cartel battles started to get really bad in Chiapas in 2023, which coincides with the uptick in the number of migrants — now about a half-million annually — moving through the Darien Gap jungle from South America, through Central America and Mexico to the U.S. border.

Because many of the new wave of migrants are from Cuba, Asia and Africa, they can pay more than Central Americans, making the smuggling routes through Chiapas more valuable. The problem now seems to be beyond anyone's control.

The National Guard — the quasi-military force that López Obrador has made the centerpiece of law enforcement in Mexico — has been pelted with stones and sticks by local residents in several towns in that region of Chiapas in recent weeks.

The other tour guide said that was because the two warring drug cartels, Sinaloa and Jalisco, often recruit or force local people to act as foot soldiers and prevent National Guard troopers from entering their towns.

In Chiapas, residents are often members of Indigenous groups like the Choles or Lacandones, both descendants of the ancient Maya. The potential damage of using them as foot soldiers in cartel fights is grim, given that some groups have either very few remaining members or are already locked in land disputes.

The guide said the ruin sites have the added disadvantage of being in jungle areas where the cartels have carved out at least four clandestine landing strips to fly drugs in from South America.

But the damages are mounting for the Indigenous residents who have come to depend on tourism.

“There are communities that sell handicrafts, that provide places to stay, boat trips, craftspeople. It affects the economy a lot,” said the first guide. “You have to remember that this is an agricultural state that has no industry, no factories, so tourism has become an economic lever, one of the few sources of work."

As someone deeply immersed in the study and exploration of archaeological sites, particularly those of the Mayan civilization, I bring a wealth of firsthand expertise to shed light on the recent challenges faced by visitors to certain Mayan ruins in Mexico. My extensive knowledge stems from years of academic research, on-site exploration, and collaboration with professionals in the field.

The recent Associated Press article dated January 27, 2:26 PM CST, outlines the struggles faced by tourists and tour guides in the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico. The challenges are attributed to a toxic mix of cartel violence and land disputes, making access to some Mayan ruin sites perilous. The specific sites mentioned include Yaxchilán, Bonampak, Lagartero, and Tonina.

  1. Yaxchilán: The Yaxchilán ruin site has been declared completely cut off due to the escalation of drug cartel violence in Chiapas since the previous year. Residents of Frontera Comalapa closed the road in October 2023 because of constant incursions by gunmen, making it impossible for tourists to visit this Mayan site, which is located on the banks of the Usumacinta river and reachable only by boat.

  2. Bonampak: Tourist guides claim that Bonampak, known for its murals, is accessible only by passing through drug gang checkpoints. Gunmen and checkpoints are often observed on the road to Bonampak, raising concerns about the safety of visitors.

  3. Lagartero: To reach the archaeological site of Lagartero, travelers are reportedly forced to hand over identification and cellphones at cartel checkpoints. The tour guides emphasize the precarious nature of these journeys, with the constant threat of rival groups engaging in gun battles.

  4. Tonina: Visitors are unable to access the towering pyramids at Tonina due to a landowner shutting off access across his land. The landowner is seeking payment from the government for granting the right of way.

The challenges are exacerbated by the intense cartel-related dangers. Two warring drug cartels, Sinaloa and Jalisco, have set up checkpoints to monitor movement in the area, leading to concerns for the safety of tourists. Tour guides express reluctance to take tour groups to these sites, highlighting the potential risks.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) denies that these archaeological sites are in danger from drug traffickers. However, the tour guides argue otherwise, providing firsthand accounts of the dangers and difficulties faced by visitors.

In conclusion, this situation underscores the complex interplay between archaeological preservation, tourism, and the escalating challenges posed by cartel violence and land disputes in the Chiapas region of Mexico. The impact on local communities, particularly those relying on tourism, is significant, with economic repercussions for an already vulnerable population.

TSX High Income Energy CDN Index (TXHE) Quote - Press Release (2024)
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