Mexican authorities seize illicit alcohol in crackdown at resorts

Mexican authorities seize illicit alcohol in crackdown at resorts

Mexican authorities announce the seizure of illicit alcohol from resorts and other tourist hot spots around Cancun and Playa del Carmen on Friday.

Mexican authorities seize illicit alcohol in crackdown at resorts

Abbey Connor, the 20 year old who recently died from alcohol poisoning on a vacation to Mexico, poses with her family, including brother Austin Connor, 22, who also suffered from alcohol poisoning.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel compiled some of the reports of tainted alcohol at all-inclusive resorts in Mexico based on travelers who reached out to the newspaper. (Photo: Journal Sentinel/ Special to The Republic)

An attorney hired by Conner's family noted in a report given to the family in July that "low quality" alcohol was being served and mixed at Iberostar’s Paraiso del Mar bar where Conner and her brother, Austin, had been drinking before they were found floating in the pool.

Austin, then 22, awoke with a concussion and gash on his forehead and no memory of what happened.

The Conner family — and others who have blacked out — suspect tainted alcohol or targeted drugging may be to blame, but Mexican authorities have not disclosed any connections.

The Mexican government has long been aware of the country’s problems with counterfeit and otherwise illicit alcohol. As much as 36% of the alcohol consumed in the country is illegal, according to a report this year by Euromonitor International.

That means the alcohol is sold or produced under unregulated circumstances and is potentially dangerous. The study, conducted in collaboration with the nation’s Tax Administration Service, found that was an improvement from two years earlier, when 43% was illegal.

Mexican authorities seize illicit alcohol in crackdown at resorts

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel compiled some of the reports of tainted alcohol at all-inclusive resorts in Mexico based on travelers who reached out to the newspaper.

The national health authority in Mexico has seized more than 1.4 million gallons of adulterated alcohol since 2010 — not just from small local establishments, but from hotels and other entertainment areas, according to a 2017 report by the country's Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks.

The U.S. Department of State failed to warn travelers about the alcohol risks in resort areas until the Journal Sentinel’s investigation.

In the case of Kukulkan, the lobby bar at Iberostar Paraiso Maya, inspectors found unsanitary conditions including water leakage, lack of disinfectant and expired and unlabeled alcohol.

Other establishments in Playa del Carmen were cited for lack of maintenance, cleanliness, order and documentation, including the Hotel Iberostar Paraiso Lindo, Hotel Iberostar Grand Paraiso, La Choperia, Los forgotten, McCarthy's Coco Bongo, Mexico Loco and Guy Fieri's.

Those cited for the same reasons in Cancun include: Iberostar Hotel, Hooters, La Vaquita, Blue Gecko, Dady’O, Mr. Frogs, Crab House, Fred’s House, Porfirio’s Cancun, The Distillery, La Casa del Habano, and Carlos ’n Charlie’s.

Alvaro Perez Vega, the commissioner of sanitation, called Quintana Roo — where Cancun and Riviera Maya are located — the "most important tourist destination in the country," and said ensuring the safety of visitors there is a top priority.

“We are continuing to work together with the secretary of tourism to ensure the health of the tourists in the region and the rest of the country,” Perez Vega said.

Officials did not say whether they were referring any of their findings for criminal prosecution. Nor did they reveal whether they are investigating the circumstances surrounding Conner’s death.

The head of the Mexican legislative health commission said last month that they are planning a broader effort to crack down on counterfeit alcohol. Details are expected to be revealed in September, he said.



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