The explosion on a passenger ferry in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, February 21 was caused by a homemade bomb, federal authorities have determined.
According to a joint investigation by the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) and the Secretariat of the Navy, the explosive device was placed intentionally on the vessel operated by the company Barcos Caribe and detonated remotely.
The investigation file, seen by the newspaper El Universal, also said that the person who made the bomb had knowledge of materials used in the mining and construction industries.
Twenty-six people were injured in the blast that occurred shortly before 1:00pm when the ferry was docked in Playa del Carmen following a voyage from Cozumel.
The vessel was left with a gaping hole in its starboard side next to a passenger seating area. Authorities initially said the explosion was most likely caused by a technical failure.
However, criminal investigators who attended the scene found five cylindrical cardboard cartridges attached to fragments of copper wire with yellow covering among other debris from the ferry.
The cardboard cartridges were used as explosive charges that were activated by a remote control, the investigation established.
The remains of three rows of badly damaged seats located near the center of the blast were also taken to a laboratory for analysis where it was determined that dust impregnated in them had originated from an improvised explosive device.
Navy personnel found another more powerful homemade bomb March 1 on the hull of another Barcos Caribe ferry anchored off the coast of Cozumel.
Marines with special training in dismantling explosive devices determined that it had similar characteristics to the bomb that exploded February 21.
Both devices contained potassium perchlorate, aluminum and boric acid but the undetonated bomb had eight PVC tubing cartridges rather than five cardboard ones.
Given their similarity in structure and the substances used, investigators concluded that both devices were made by the same person.
The United States embassy issued a security alert following the explosion and the subsequent discovery of the second device, which prohibited government employees from using ferries between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.
The Canadian government followed the lead of the United States, issuing its own alert cautioning travelers against using the ferry services in Quintana Roo.
The United States also closed its consular agency in Playa del Carmen and ordered government employees not to travel to the popular tourist destination but has now announced that the office will reopen on Monday.
One of the owners of Barcos Caribe is the father of former Quintana Roo governor Roberto Borge Angulo, currently in custody awaiting trial on corruption charges.
Roberto Borge Martín was on board the ferry when the explosion occurred but was uninjured. Barcos Caribe rejected a claim by the Quintana Roo government that the explosive devices were planted by the company.
But according to El Universal columnist Raúl Rodríguez Cortés, a security video from the company that has been reviewed by the PGR shows Borge boarding the vessel in Cozumel with an unidentified man carrying a backpack.
However, when the same man disembarked in Playa del Carmen he no longer had the backpack with him. In the footage, Rodríguez said that sources who have seen the video told him that Borge Martín “is seen leaving the ferry hastily.”
The journalist said that the video could be “the key evidence that it was a self-inflicted attack” designed for the purpose of collecting a large insurance payout and to destabilize the current Quintana Roo government led by Carlos Joaquín González.
Meanwhile, new security measures went into effect today.
The Federal Police announced in a statement that 60 tactical personnel have been deployed to mount a security operation in Quintana Roo, concentrating on the ferry terminals in Cozumel and Playa del Carmen.
The officers, accompanied by a canine unit trained in the detection of firearms, explosives and drugs, will conduct inspections of terminal buildings and vessels.
The state government announced it will invest 50 million pesos (US $2.68 million) to install new security equipment at the two terminals during the next two weeks.