Canadian tourists leave hotel barricades amid Mexican cartel violence

Canadian tourist In Mexico, hotels remained barricaded on Friday amid street violence after an alleged leader of a major drug cartel was arrested.

“They are safe at the hotel,” said Tina Dahl, an Edmonton woman whose relatives are stranded in the popular resort town of Mazatlan.

She said the family of six had been staying in the hotel room since Thursday afternoon and were safe.

Violence erupted in several cities in Mexico’s Sinaloa state on Thursday after drug trafficking suspect Ovidio (The Mouse) Guzman, son of former cartel boss Joaquín (El Chapo) Guzman, was arrested. . Violence is particularly intense in Culiacan, Mazatlan, Los Mochis and Guasave.

Dahl’s brother, sister-in-law, three children, and sister-in-law’s mother are all in Mazatlan. Children she is 10, 8 and 7 years old.

They were scheduled to leave on Thursday night, but fighting in the streets closed the airport and the bus that was supposed to go there was burned in front of the hotel.

Dahl, who keeps in touch with his family through social media, said they were talking about the chaotic scene.

Stranded travelers who checked out of their rooms but had their flights canceled were sleeping in hotel lobbies and gates remained barricaded, she said. Military and police vehicles criss-crossed the beach, which was recently full of tanned tourists.

Helicopters patrolled overhead. One restaurant that remained open was full, she said.

Dahl said her family was careful to keep their phones charged after hearing rumors that cartel members were planning to shut down Mazatlan’s power grid.

“Yesterday my brother called my mom and dad and said, ‘This is something I’ve never seen before. It’s like being in the middle of a war zone and I don’t know what to think or feel.'”

“Sure, he’s definitely upset.”

Dahl said her family is scheduled to speak with Sunwing on Friday to see when she can return home.

Not all Canadians in Mazatlan were behind the barricades.

Hailey Bronson said some of her friends have rescheduled their flights, but she expects to return to Cochrane, Alta, as planned on Sunday.

She lives in an apartment downtown and said it was strange to see the normally busy town of Mazatlan go quiet on Thursday.

“I’ve never seen Mazatlan so quiet,” Bronson said in a message Friday. “But today everything is back to normal.”

Winnipegger Sheila North of Mazatlan was on a catamaran with her family, including two adult children and a two-year-old grandson, when smoke billowed in two different places on Thursday afternoon, turning black I saw a helicopter fly by.

“[The staff]wanted to create a calm atmosphere, but I could tell they were being told on the phone that something was going on,” North said in a phone interview Friday.

“So we stayed until the end of the excursion and when we got back to the hotel we saw a long lineup.”

Lines to enter the hotel restaurant were long and people waited for hours, North said.

Some families were forced to sleep in their hotel lobbies, while some staff chose to stay overnight while on duty.

North and her family were due to return to Winnipeg on Friday morning, but were told their flight would be delayed until Saturday.

“There’s a whole sense of anxiety. People are regrouping, but I can see that some parents are really stressed out.”

The federal government has continued to advise Canadians in Mexico to seek shelter, avoid crowds and demonstrations, and do not attempt to cross the lockdown, even if it appears deserted.

WestJet said it canceled two flights to and from Mazatlan on Friday. Air Canada said no flights were affected by the riots.

Sunwing did not immediately respond to a request for information regarding the flight.

At least two passenger planes came under fire on Thursday. Suspected cartel members carjacked Culiacan residents and set their vehicles on fire.

Fighting broke out days before President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador welcomed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden to a summit in Mexico City.

An attempt to arrest Ovidio Guzman also led to three years of violence. A halted operation to capture him in October 2019 led to riots in Culiacán, and eventually the Mexican president ordered the military to release him.

Bob Weber

canadian press