Tourism Secretary de la Madrid: alcohol not tainted. Tourism Secretary de la Madrid: alcohol not tainted.

US begins tracking tainted booze reports

Canadian traveler alleges boyfriend was drugged, robbed in Riviera Maya

The United States government has started tracking reports of blackouts and injuries related to potentially tainted alcohol in Mexico, which several tourists allege they have been served at resorts in the Riviera Maya.


As of yesterday, the Department of State said that it had already received a dozen complaints.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported claims from tourists that they were drugged or served tainted alcohol in July and has since published a series of reports investigating the allegations.

In total, it has identified more than 120 cases of tourists who reported blacking out, being robbed, becoming ill or getting injured after allegedly being served adulterated liquor or being drugged. The incidents range from several years ago up to recent weeks.

However, when the Journal Sentinel asked the Department of State in July about the frequency of tourist injuries in Mexico, an  official said that the agency kept no such data although it did subsequently make a slight modification to its Mexico travel information by warning visitors about tainted or substandard alcohol.

Both Republican and Democrat lawmakers have criticized the department for downplaying the seriousness of the risk to tourists and not doing enough for those who have experienced problems while holidaying in Mexico.

But in a statement released yesterday, Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert rejected those claims, pointing specifically to the travel advisory update.


“We are concerned about reported incidents that the consumption of substandard or unregulated alcohol in some tourist areas in Mexico has resulted in illness or blacking out,” the statement read.

“Any U.S. citizen who falls ill should seek immediate medical attention. We also encourage U.S. citizens to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in Mexico.”

A spokesman for the department said that the complaints it receives will be used to “press the government of Mexico and Mexican state authorities to make the protection of U.S. tourists a priority.”

As tourism is one of Mexico’s largest income earners and the U.S. its biggest source of visitors, there is no lack of motivation for Mexican authorities to ensure that the issue doesn’t lead to a drop in visitor numbers.

Tourism Secretary Enrique de la Madrid has spearheaded a public relations campaign in the U.S. in recent weeks, denying that tourists are being serving alcohol.

“There is no evidence about tainted alcohol,” de la Madrid said in a television interview with CNBC.

However, the seriousness of the allegations is underscored by the death of a 20-year-old Wisconsin woman in January just hours into a vacation in Playa del Carmen after she had been drinking at a swim-up bar.

Presumably talking about the case, de la Madrid said that tainted alcohol was not to blame.

“I know the story, I know the case . . . we found out that it is not related to tainted alcohol, it has to do with excessive alcohol,” he said.

While the Department of State would not disclose any details about the complaints it has received, several other victims have come forward with stories about negative experiences in Mexican resorts.

A Canadian woman who recently stayed at an all-inclusive resort in the Riviera Maya contacted Mexico News Daily with allegations that her boyfriend was drugged and robbed.

The woman said that after drinking together — with bartenders serving drinks double or triple their normal strength — the couple went back to their room before her partner left again for “one more drink.”

However, he “didn’t return for hours and “when he finally came back it was in a wheelchair naked, wrapped in a sheet totally unconscious,” she said via email.

“The men . . . from the resort brought him in, dropped him on the bed and refused to find him a doctor or to tell me where they found him, who he was with or what had happened him,” she added.

The woman said that when he finally regained consciousness, “his pupils were huge” and he “was still high on the drugs they had slipped him.” His cash, credit cards, shoes and even underwear were stolen, she said.

Eventually, the woman said that they were forced to leave the resort amid threats from hotel staff, adding that they received no assistance from the travel agency they booked the vacation with.

The Journal Sentinel has reported similar stories while others wrote about their experiences in online forums including that of travel website TripAdvisor. However, some posts warning about rapes at Mexican resorts were removed by the site, according to tourists who submitted them.

A 2017 report by the Mexican government revealed that up to 36% of the alcohol consumed in Mexico is illicit, meaning that it is untaxed and unregulated.

But while the tourism secretary conceded that thousands of bottles of unregulated liquor have been confiscated by authorities, he stressed that it did not pose any danger to those who may have consumed it.

“It is not tainted, it is not tainted,” de la Madrid repeated.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (en), CNBC (en)

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  • Playapapa

    If the booze is tainted; why are only a handful of tourists getting sick? IMHO, alcohol abuse is the problem.

    Before we became winter residents, my wife and I stayed at a few AI’s and witnessed drunken fools staggering around before lunch. I can just imagine what shape they were in by sunset!

    I believe that hotel management should take some responsibility and allow the wait staff and/or bartender to cut off the next ‘tainted alcohol’ victims. They probably won’t, because it will mean bad reviews on Trip Adviser.

    • Mason

      Mexico has always had tourist drinking to much this is different.

      Couples are passing out and waking up at the same time 12-14hr later, most of these people are experience alcohol drinkers and know it was different then just drinking to much.

      Wallets and money are disappearing on the way to their beds.

      Victims are getting driven 12 miles out of the way to private hospitals and getting bills for more then 10k.

      In Mexico drunks have always gotten taken advantage of, it was usually the drunk guy who bought the wrong prostitute and then would be too embarrassed to report it. Now they have started to target tourist at the large resorts.

      This is just an example of the rest of Mexico creeping into the tourist zones. Mexico has become a lawless failed state. Extortion, kidnapping, murder are a new normal.

      • Jeff Swanson

        you are one sharp cookie, the exact point, because of “corruption” and the simple fact the government OF MEXICO has lost complete control, this “plethora” of crime that has always existed in Mexico, is now being FREELY exported and allowed into “Safe” LOL ! “Tourist Havens”
        San Miguel Allende, Merida, the “Yucatan” all FORMER “SAFE” expat havens have now exploded overnight with crime and violence, ask the residents of San Miguel how now you are 87% sure to mugged at gunpoint after 9 pm on the streets there, they reported and complained to the authorities from top to bottom, the reply? GO FISH, SUCCA!
        Dick (Nixon) along with many celbs are all spinning in their respective graves over the state of their beloved “Acapulco”, all the “Mexico” boosters here get your ass down to the beach there, oh and have a nice stay! I recommend travel insurance, with death repatriation coverage back to the US or Canada!

        • Yasmin Rubia

          What is your source for saying that Merida or Yucatan state have exploded with crime ? (Please note Yucatan state does not include Cancun or Riviera Maya?)

          • BB

            Yeah, Jeff needs to lose Yucatan and it’s capital, Merida, from that list.

  • Yasmin Rubia

    It`s hard to know who to believe. Both Mexican and US governments want to help their tourist industries.

  • Mason

    People are getting drugged.

    Victims are are passing out for the same amount of time and waking up with wallets and money gone. Hospitals are also in on some of the scams and victims are getting bills 10k-20k for a 24hr visit.

    It is easy to blame drinkers and say they drank too much but it is happening to much too many cases are leading to the discovery of people who were drugged

  • Disco

    Wash your hands then deny, deny, deny!!!!

    • Yasmin Rubia

      I think we need to keep an open mind that this problem may or may not becoming common.

  • Linda McHenry

    Not our experience. I’ve been vacationing in Mexico since the 70’s……..the last 10 years for extended visits at an all-inclusive (El Cid)……….we have recently purchased a condo and are part-time residents. We have never experienced any problems with “tainted alcohol” or “drugged” drinks……we have experienced obnoxious drunk gringos staggering around making fools of themselves, demanding shots w/beer chasers and passing out on the beach. If they behaved the same in the states, they’d wake up in some back alley, rolling in their vomit missing a wallet also. And then there’s the college chug-a-thons and date rape drugs prevalent on college campuses. Perhaps the US should clean up it’s own backyard before coming after Mexico.

  • LosOjosRojos

    My bet is on victims being ‘slipped a Mickey’, not tainted alcohol.
    Speaking from experience (as a victim)

    • Dave Warren

      Yeah …I got slipped something in Barra de Navidad about 10 years ago. After 3 Margueritas I shouldn’t have blacked out and thrown up as I did….apparently. My sis was drinking the same booze and she wasn’t affected. I think the bartender just didn’t like me and put something in the drink.

  • Jeff Swanson

    I am personally sick of MEXICO “and their cake and eat it too” ATTATUDE, IT IS GONNA STOP!
    They want tourism, BUT any tourist protections are a “RUSE” there are none! ASK ANYONE who as a “Tourist” in Mexico and the victim of a crime how the Gov, Police etc reacted, if they were satisfied? NO!
    IF as a tourist in Mexico you are the victim of a crime or crimes, you are simply SOL (Shit out of Luck)
    IF they “do anything” then they are admitting there is a problem, all crimes in the tourism sector are covered up.
    Got so bad in one, the secretary of tourism ACTUALLY came out and said “anyone damaging the destination will be prosecuted and jailed, this includes foreigners” THIS IS A THREAT !!! GET IT?
    “Damaging” the destination, means you were the victim of a crime, wanna make an issue and report it, demand action, then you are “guilty” of “Damaging the destination”
    As was CORECTLY stated here people coming to Mexico and “Over Drinking” IS, IS, IS NOTHING NEW!
    The “Drugging’s” are new! Yes I agree people over drink coming to Mexico, I hated it, BUT it is mainly if not totally limited to the underage and the 20 something’s.
    Sick of as well the American or Canadian as here always sticking up for “MEXICO” makes ya wonder, “schill” or realtor/business owner in Mexico? YOU BET! Keep the lies going, and the $$$$ flowing!
    this BS, and that’s what it is, of same would happen to you in the USA, WE ARE NOT talking about the USA, we are talking ONLY about Mexico! GET IT?
    AND sure if you are in a “back alley” bar in Detroit at 2 am, as an idiot non local drunk off your ass, you very well may end up mugged or dead in the alley.
    OK, THAT SAID, we are TALKING MEXICAN 10 star resorts, at a 10 star resort ANYWHERE in the world, BUT MEXICO, you are safe!!!!
    This DON’T happen lady at high end resorts in the USA, and the staff takes care of you and exercises a healthy interest in your safety and well being, BECAUSE UNLIKE CROOKED, CORRUPT MEXICO, should harm befall you on that property, they are legally 127% LIABLE!
    EVEN IF, the perpetrator of the crime, was NOT a guest and trespassed onto the property!
    Had a close relative recently mugged at knife point in Mexico at high noon in a tourist only resort, police were called, the perp ID’ed, the police REFUSED to arrest him, let the guy walk, came out days later this same guy had mugged 4 other tourists, same place, taking their cell phones.
    You see how it works in MEXICO, from the hotel manager, down to the desk clerk and waiters, AND THE POLICE, all get a cut, allow the perp to operate with impunity!
    DID YOU KNOW LADY EXPERT ON MEXICO, IN MEXICIO if a crime is committed against you, you need 3 witnesses OR NO PRSECUTION ? How many witness a rape or a mugging in general? ZERO !
    Drugged booze, you bet your ass!

  • Commander Barkfeather

    I would guess (and this is only a guess) that there is a combination of factors at play here. Like others, I have seen gringos exhibit behavior in Mexico, that they would never duplicate in the US. I would guess (only a guess) this accounts for the majority of cases. However, some reports sound convincing. As for “tainted” alcohol, it wouldn’t surprise me. I’ve been unable to buy roadside honey that hasn’t been tainted with corn syrup.

  • WestCoastHwy

    Wasted in Mexico can be a horror story if you are not with friends or family. Being a binge drinker, it wasn’t until just resent that I passed out at a bar, totally wasted. I started drinking at about 11:00am and after I smoked this huge blunt with a Mexican dude that I realized that it was indica not your typical brick weed. Holy sh*t, when I came back to the bar it just totally TKO ed me, I was down for the count. Luckily after several hours out, I was relieved by a good friend that was watching over me and I was able to preform my favorite song on open mic, “on the beach.” But the stories about tainted booze, it’s just rot gut higher percentage alcohol and after drinking that sh*t I hope you lose your pants including underwear!