After months of complaints about tourists being targeted in Mexico, the U.S. Office of Inspector General has opened an investigation into how the State Department handled the accusations. Inspector General Steve Linick confirmed the investigation in a letter to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Sen. Ron Johnson.
Republican Johnson was assured in the letter that Linick is taking a close look at the current policies being used by the State Department after concerns came up about what was being done after several complaints were made. Johnson raised the issue after a recent report became public about the situation and the increased danger in Mexico. According to the report:
“…dozens of people told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel they had been robbed, sexually assaulted and otherwise injured after consuming alcohol while vacationing at all-inclusive resorts around Mexico.”
While some may assume that people on vacation might be prone to overindulging in drinking, most of the reports of issues after drinking occurred with very few drinks consumed. Adults reported blacking out after such a small amount of alcohol that they assumed that it was laced with something else.
Many of the complaints involved fewer than three drinks and even occurred to couples at the same time. It would be highly unlikely for two adults to get to the point of blacking out on the same exact amount of alcohol without it containing some drug. It is also odd that most of the couples that reported blacking out at the same time were different weights. For the average pair, a partner that was heavier would not be “drunk” as quickly as someone who was lighter.
Beyond the oddly timed blackouts of multiple family members, the families also reported becoming targets for abuse during the time they were out cold. This included waking up in their hotel rooms after being robbed, suffering similar injuries while blacked out and even a few pairs waking up to find they had been sexually abused. The pattern of blacking out way too quickly followed by some crime being committed against them seemed to be repeated over and over.
Being victimized while passed out was bad enough for the families that made the reports, but sadly not all the reported victims survived the blackouts. One of the families shared the story and concerns about the death of their 20-year-old daughter Abbey Conner and injury of her brother Austin. The pair was drinking at the swim up bar at the Paraiso del Mar resort in January.
The pair shared a few drinks at the bar and almost immediately began to have issues. Both Abbey and Austin passed out in the pool at the same time. Both Abbey and Austin were pulled from the pool. Abbey was put on life support in Florida but later died due to “accidental drowning.” Austin survived and recovered from a severe concussion.
The family of Abbey and Austin made contact with the State Department for help. Local authorities did not investigate the matter, and at the time the State Department shared the following:
“…there was little it could do to help. The agency has no investigative authority in Mexico, can’t offer legal advice or even translate the language for U.S. citizens abroad.”
The family was mostly left to deal with the issue alone. They did discover that the State Department keeps very little information on file about issues that tourists had in Mexico. In the first half of 2017, 16 Americans drowned in Mexico. Abbey’s death was not included in this figure as she did not die in Mexico, she was airlifted to a stateside hospital where she lived on life support for several days.
While the State Department did little to help the family of Conner, they did make a generic warning about tainted alcohol in Mexico in July. Many did not see this as being enough as the alert was buried on the country-specific part of the larger website and relatively difficult to find.
Even though the first warning did not seem to adequately address the issue, the State Department did make another effort to warn Americans about the risk. An updated August warning made mention of the increase in homicides in Cancun and drug-related crimes in a broad sense. There was no mention of the alcohol issue or even the lack of local resources for victims of crimes.
It is not clear at this time if the alcohol being served to tourists is tainted with specific drugs or if the fact that much of the alcohol is made under illicit conditions causes it to be more lethal. It is a well-established fact that many resorts use alcohols that are bootlegged and far more dangerous.