By Gabriel Stargardter
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - At least five people, including foreigners, were killed and 15 were wounded early on Monday when a shooter opened fire at a nightclub in Mexico’s Playa del Carmen resort during the BPM electronic music festival.
Quintana Roo State Attorney General Miguel Angel Pech said a Canadian, an Italian and a Mexican were among the dead, while the nationality of the other two victims was still unclear. He had earlier said a second Canadian and a Colombian had been killed in the attack. One of the dead died in the stampede to exit the club, he added.
Pech said the shooter escaped and was still at large. He added that the shooting was not being investigated as an act of terrorism.
The Canadian government confirmed that one of its citizens had died and said it was investigating the reports of a second Canadian death.
Pech said the incident began when a person entered the Blue Parrot nightclub armed around 3 a.m. (0800 GMT) on Monday morning, during the closing of the festival. Another person tried to stop the person, sparking a gunfight that drew in security staff.
The shooting represents a major blow to Mexico’s tourism industry, which has been one of the few bright spots in the economy thanks to a weak peso exchange rate.
Tourists are generally shielded from the drug violence that has ripped Mexico apart over the last decade, killing well over 100,000 people since 2007.
Pech said 15 people were injured, of whom 7 were still in hospital. The state government said in a statement that one person was in grave condition. Four people were arrested on suspicion of being involved in the incident.
Pech said two of the dead were BPM security workers but the festival said in a statement that three members of their security team were killed. BPM said the shooting was carried out by a lone shooter.
Quintana Roo and the surrounding Yucatan peninsula have traditionally been less violent than other parts of Mexico, with relatively low murder rates. However, with many foreign tourists and a vibrant night life scene, there has long been an important local drug market in and around Playa Del Carmen, which is just south of the popular resort of Cancun.
The organizer of an electronic music event near Playa Del Carmen told Reuters that armed men who claimed to be part of a drug cartel turned up recently at one of his parties, demanding access to sell drugs.
The event’s security team decided to let them enter so as to avoid conflict with the men, the organizer said, adding that there were now cells from all the major Mexican cartels operating in Quintana Roo, a wealthy region full of tourists.
The organizer said the situation in Quintana Roo deteriorated after the political party controlling the state government was forced out in local elections last year, a shift that can spark violence as criminal groups struggle to realign their allegiances with the incoming political class.
“They’re all fighting for control of the region,” said the organizer, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals. “This is an aggression toward any promoter of electronic music in Mexico. It’s a wound for the entire community.”
He added that he thought BPM would have to end, and feared for his own events in the region.
PANIC ON THE STREETS
Videos purportedly shot at the scene shown on television and social media appear to show dancers ducking for cover and running out on the streets to safety.
“This is a very, very sad situation. Tryna get my head around it still. Thoughts and condolences to all affected,” Scottish DJ Jackmaster, who was performing at BPM, said on Twitter.
The BPM festival, which was entering its 10th year, has grown to be one of the biggest electronic music events in the world, with top DJs flying in every January to play the clubs of Playa del Carmen along Mexico’s Caribbean coast.
In recent years, Mexico’s Caribbean coast has drawn a growing number of DJs and fans of electronic music to the beautiful, balmy region, looking to escape the frigid European and North American winters.
(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Alan Crosby)