An explosion aboard one ferry and at least one explosive device discovered on another triggered a security alert last night by the United States embassy, prohibiting government employees from using ferries operating between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo.
The explosion took place February 21 on a passenger ferry in Playa del Carmen and injured 26 people, including U.S. citizens. The embassy alert said the blast was caused by an explosive device.
At least one other device was found yesterday on another ferry. Both vessels are owned by Barcos Caribe, whose regular service between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen was suspended by federal authorities after the explosion.
The alert prohibits U.S. government employees from using all tourist ferries on the route until further notice and said that Mexican and U.S. law enforcement continue to investigate. It also warns travelers to be aware of their surroundings and exercise caution.
The newspaper Reforma reported yesterday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is assisting Mexican authorities in its investigations.
After the February 21 explosion, the Quintana Roo state port authority said that preliminary indications suggested a mechanical failure may have been to blame. However, some media reported that a drug cartel had taken credit for the blast.
The vessel was left with a gaping hole in its starboard side next to a passenger seating area.
Barcos Caribe is owned by the father of former Quintana Roo governor Roberto Borge, who is currently in custody awaiting trial on corruption charges. Roberto Borge Martín was on board the ferry when the February 21 explosion occurred but was uninjured.
Yesterday’s discovery was made on a ferry that was anchored off the port of Cozumel.
Media reports yesterday initially said that Navy personnel found and defused two explosive devices on the vessel Caribe 2.
However, an operations manager for Barcos Caribe subsequently told the newspaper El Universal that only one device had been found, adding that the Navy Secretariat had not informed the company that it was explosive nor had it said that it had deactivated the device.
In a statement, the Quintana Roo government also referred to one “supposedly explosive device” and said that it was found in a vessel that had not been used to transport passengers for 10 months. The government stressed that it had not represented any danger to ferry passengers or tourists visiting the state.
It added that all three levels of government are cooperating “to strengthen the security measures on the docks.” The Army and Navy are also involved in the efforts, the statement said.
Today, the official word was not only that two devices were found yesterday, but they might have been planted by the ferry company itself.
State Attorney General Miguel Ángel Pech told news show host Carlos Loret de Mola this morning that two explosive mechanisms were found on the vessel, and the circumstances were “strange.”
That the vessel’s owner was involved is one of the lines of investigation being followed, he said.
The February 21 explosion is still being regarded as mechanical issue caused by poor maintenance, Pech said.