Danger's Blog, Cancun Casa,Living on Isla Time
In a Little Cafe on the Other Side of the Border, a Virtual Visitor's Blog on Cancun

July 2009
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Blogging the Cancun News
Filed under: Cancun Casa Blog, Cancun Tourism
Posted by: Dangers @ 10:57 pm

 Here at Cancun Casa, we’ve been held hostage of late by our originating IP Host (a quick ping will track them down). As such, while our readers were able to land at the Little Cafe in cyberspace these past days, we, the owners, were held in secluded isolation from the world of Cancun Casa, maybe that was a good thing, not being able to log on or in to the website for over two days. It appears our IP Host (begins with a “V”) and their provided router decided rather unceremoniously to block Cancun Casa from it’s own internal network. The good news is, the connection issue so mystified their techs that once appropriately challenged to this new and unusual problem, they set forth to resolve it, though we do admit that it was rather odd to at once be able to view the Internet as usual but not be able to access one’s own website, a website hosted entirely on another independent server.

 Ah, the miracles of fiber optics and high speed transmissions.

 In any case, we’ve some catching up to do here and hence we bring you the recent news of Cancun, Mexico in this weeks Blogging the News.

Hotel Occupancy on the Rise:
Bolstered by the National vacation season and strong foreign promotions by the Mexican Government and Local Tourism Industry, advertising hotel discounts and other promotional activity, the Cancun Hotel sector reported occupancies as high as 81% for specific days in the second half of the month of July. Daily reports from the Cancun Hotel Association indicate that despite the significant damage to tourism from widespread adverse publicity from the A(H1N1) virus and border violence, the industry is experiencing a decided rebound compared with previous months. Currently hotel occupancy is still down approximately 9-10% from the same point last year for the month of July but the current increase is welcome news to the local hotel and tourism based industries, especially with the low season of September through November right around the corner.

Missing Tourist Found, Deceased: Local authorities in Cancun have identified the body of missing tourist Julia Howard, missing since June 16, 2009 from the Moon Palace Resort and Hotel. The remains of Julia Howard were identified via personal effects and forensic identification of a medical prosthesis found at a remote tropical mangrove forest location upwards of 3 miles south of where Julia Howard was last seen while staying at the Moon Palace Resort. Family members of Howard’s arrived in Cancun this week to claim the body via the British Consulate and publicly lashed out at local Mexican Authorities who via the Quintana Roo Attorney General blamed the family for being irresponsible and inattentive in allowing Howard to first become lost, wander some 3 miles in the dense tropical jungle, and succumb to natural causes via the local environment. The Howard family for their part believe their 78 year grandmother was abducted, murdered and dumped at the remote location, clearly believing that it was impossible given Howard’s age and condition to walk that far under the severe tropical conditions through a dense, swampy jungle. They are also outraged that the Quintana Roo Attorney General has publicly admonished them. Speculation from both authorities in Cancun and the general public continues as to what may have happened to Julia Howard but to date the scant evidence reported is inconclusive to the mystery of what happened to Julia Howard in Cancun. Reports indicate that the cause of death could not be determined due to the deteriorated remains and that the family plans to have the body cremated.

Beach Restoration Coming to Cancun September 1, 2009:
Based on local reports and news of the much awaited beach restoration project, work will commence on or about September 1st in the Cancun area. The work is expected to establish certain man made breakwaters in strategic locations, remove existing previous breakwaters, including geotubes, and to provide beach sand replenishment. The project will carry with it a long term (10 years) maintenance agreement that establishes a commitment to annual restoration in areas that may be damaged due to future storms and erosion.

(Courtesy of Por Esto/Cancun)

Updated: 08/03/09: The Gran Caribe and Royal Cancun beach is being reported as closed again despite previous news stories to the opposite that announced an agreement between officials and the resort owner. Basically, the new reports indicate that the beach is closed but there’s no one in authority monitoring them and the Hotel management doesn’t have the legal right to allow or not allow their use (in Mexico almost all beaches are considered public domain). So in essence, the beach in front of the two resorts are officially closed but with no one in authority guarding over them, the public has access to the beach, should they desire. Does it make sense? No? But then again nothing really does in this now surreal situation.  Thanks to Noticaribe, Reforma and Novedades for the update. http://www.noticaribe.com.mx/cancun/2009/08/defiende_profepa_clausura_de_playas_es_excesivo_felix.html

However, we’ll all be happy to know that the Gran Caribe and Royal Cancun are still open (the resorts never closed or were they required to), just without officially sanctioned open beaches. http://news.prnewswire.com/DisplayReleaseContent.aspx?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/08-03-2009/0005070703&EDATE=

Updated: 08/01/09;Gran Caribe Hotel Beach Closure: As per an apparent breaking agreement between PROFEPA and the owner of the Gran Caribe Hotel and the Royal Cancun, the beach has been reopened. The Hotel owner has agreed to start the removal of the illegal jetty as of August 5, 2009 and allow PROFEPA inspectors unrestricted access for monitoring. Mexican Authorities in Cancun have closed off beach access to the Gran Caribe Hotel in Cancun due to illegalities concerning beach replenishment and the construction of a private beach jetty just off shore of the resort. On Thursday, after almost two years of warnings to cease, desist and remove, PROFEPA, the Mexican Environmental Agency swooped down on the Gran Caribe Real Hotel along with military support from the Mexican Navy amid reports of continued beach work going on at the resort’s beach. Local reports indicated that officials requested startled tourists on the beach to leave the area for the formal beach closure and arrested five employees of the hotel performing beach restoration work in violation of the law. The owners of the Gran Caribe Real over the last two years have built a jetty type sea wall off shore and replenished the beach with sand and other materials in an effort to protect the hotel from the sea, particularly sea surges during tropical storms, and to provide an ample beach front for tourists. PROFEPA claims these works were done without proper authority, in detriment to the local environment including the off shore coral reef and with devastating effects to other nearby resorts that were struggling to maintain storm damaged beaches. The irony of the situation is that in the very near future, all beaches in this area will be part of a massive beach restoration plan. Part of the plan requires the removal of the existing man made jetty built by the hotel, of which, the Gran Caribe’s owner(s) have in the past vowed to remove prior to the restoration which of course, hasn’t happened to date. The beach at the Gran Caribe’s adjacent sister hotel, the Royal Cancun, has also been effected. There are recent reports that the Governor of Quintana Roo has protested the closure to Mexican Federal Authorities. Of further note, PROFEPA has been very active recently in moving against illegally constructed buildings and people destroying areas under environmental protection from Tulum to Isla Mujeres.

Swine Flu/ A(H1N1) Update:
As of July 28, 2009, the total reported cases of A(H1N1) in the Mexican State of Quintana Roo, Cancun’s home State, to date is 385 confirmed cases with one related fatality reported as per reports from the Mexican Health Secretary. Mexican Health Officials are pre-emptively increasing supplies and medical equipment to the Yucatan Peninsula States among other areas in an effort, akin to most proactive nations, to be prepared for an expected surge in new cases this coming fall and winter. Of note, the neighboring State of Yucatan has seen an increasing number of cases over the last two months.

Ferry Fare Hike Cancun to Isla Mujeres:
In a controversial move to increase fares with limited or no notice, the ferry boats running between Cancun and Isla Mujeres have increased fares, doubling the previous fare amount for the general public (read tourists). Two of the main companies transporting both tourists and locals alike via ferry between Cancun and Isla Mujeres have raised their prices each way from 35 pesos to 70 pesos for the general public, from 25 pesos to 40 pesos for local citizens, 10 pesos to 15 pesos for students, and from 15 pesos to 25 pesos for the elderly. While the impact will likely be insignificant to most foreign tourists despite the price hike, for the local citizenry, the increases in a struggling economy are substantial, especially for those workers who travel between the ports each day. Currently, major public outcry is occurring over the fare increases and the local government’s are threatening action along with grassroots citizen committees.


Speculation Continues on Tourist Death, Julia Howard Case; ITN Video, Por Esto in Cancun
Filed under: Cancun Casa Blog, Cancun Tourism, Missing: Julia Howard
Posted by: Dangers @ 11:44 am

 Today, ITN, in a YouTube Video (below), partially, courtesy of the Attorney General’s Office of Quintana Roo, somewhat graphic in nature (editor’s warning), is reporting on the Julia Howard story and the now, considerable speculation from Howard’s family members, that given the condition and age of the Julia Howard that it would be difficult to comprehend how her remains were found upwards of three miles from her last known location, if she had walked there herself before succumbing to natural elements.

 Por Esto newspaper in Cancun, Mexico is also reporting the story as somewhat incredulous to logic to presume the Scottish grandmother wandered that far into a dense tropical mangrove forest given the swamp like conditions and speculates that the body may have been “dumped” there. http://www.poresto.net/quintana-roo/46801-conjeturas-por-julia-howard

 Julia Howard disappeared while on vacation with several family members from the secluded Moon Palace Resort and Hotel in Cancun, Mexico on June 16, 2009 and her remains were discovered on a local ranch on July 22, 2009 amongst the tropical mangrove forest, south of the resort. Authorities in Cancun are currently performing a forensic investigation as to the cause of death and the events leading up to it. The Quintana Roo Attorney General has dismissed murder as a probable cause in an earlier press conference.

Link to ITN Video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq9SCw3ThHg&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fdangers.cancuncasa.com%2Fblog_admin%2Fwp-admin%2Fpost.php%3Faction%3Dedit%26post%3D87&feature=player_embedded

Family of Julia Howard Speaks Out After News of UK Gran’s Death
Filed under: Cancun Casa Blog, Cancun Tourism, Missing: Julia Howard
Posted by: Dangers @ 7:21 pm

 The family of Julia Howard in the United Kingdom has spoken with the press syndicated via the BBC, and reported in press and online editions of the Scottish Sun and the Scotsman, regarding the reports in Cancun, Mexico that the remains of Julia Howard have been located amidst dense tropical mangrove forest foliage approximately three miles from where the Scottish grandmother was last seen while staying at the Moon Palace Resort and Hotel in Cancun. Julia Howard went missing on June 16, 2009 from the resort after telling family members she was going for a walk at the resort which she had visited multiple times in the past. The BBC also reports that Julia Brock, Ms. Howard’s daughter, told reporters that her mother adored the resort she was staying at.

 In reported statements to the BBC, Ms. Howard’s distraught daughter, Julia Brock was quoted as stating  “I’m dazed and it’s a total nightmare. We’re going out to (Cancun, Monday, to) formally identify the body”

“They said they think it is her but we are getting a huge amount of conflicting news. Although my brother thought it would be bad news, I was always kind of hoping she was still alive.”

 ”The rest of the family say at least we can bring her home now.”

 ”She never went out of the complex, she rarely even went further than five minutes from the pool.”

 ”To say she walked three miles and in the wrong direction is just ludicrous, she just wouldn’t, but we can’t prove it, but we know she was not capable of that.”

 ”We’ve got to try and find out what happened to her.”

 ”Everyone liked my mum, she was always cheery and smiling, nobody can believe it and we haven’t told the children yet, we just don’t know how to.”

 In other news on the story, Quintana Roo newspaper Diario Respuesta reports that among the personal items found at the scene along with the remains were a pair of white flip flops, a gold ring, a silver watch, a Moon Palace Hotel room key and a prosthesis of Ms. Howard. Local officials in Cancun reportedly told reporters that should Ms. Howard’s family request a positive identification, they may request such via DNA testing through the State and Federal Attorney General’s offices respectively.

 Diario Respuesta also reports that an investigative team sent to recover Ms. Howard’s remains and review the location became lost in the jungle terrain themselves when attempting their return from the remains site, and required rescue by elements of the Red Cross, Cancun Fire and Rescue Teams, and Security personnel from the Moon Palace Resort. One member of the original investigative team presumably suffered heat stroke and was removed from the scene via stretcher by rescuers.

 Currently, in the view from afar, after following this story for two months, it appears the initial findings being reported support the Occam’s Razor approach of the Quintana Roo Attorney General’s office though many questions appear unanswered regarding the original disappearance and how Ms. Howard’s remains ended up almost three miles away in an isolated jungle location, south of the Moon Palace Resort. The Moon Palace itself located well off the widely popular Cancun Hotel Zone known as Isla Cancun, in a large compound like setting along the coast, on the mainland, on the road to Playa Del Carmen.

 Which is exactly what Focus Radio in Quintana Roo says that some members, privately, of the investigative team are wondering as well, how Ms. Howard’s remains ended up in such a distant, remote, swamp like setting, though the head of the State Judicial Police stated as per Focus Radio that police investigators will wait on the final forensic results, rather than speculate on the cause of death currently. Focus Radio reports that it seems quite incredible that a single, elderly woman with a hip prosthesis managed to walk several miles in the muddy, swamp like terrain when investigators had such difficulty in doing so. http://www.enfoqueradio.com.mx/?p=29664



Editor’s Note/ Warning:
Below is the link to the Diario Respuesta story but we highly caution readers that the photograph collage provided by the newspaper of the scene, not uncommon for the Mexican Press in general, may be quite disturbing to many readers and certainly family members of Ms. Howard.



Cancun Authorities Confirm Body Found is Missing UK Tourist, Julia Howard
Filed under: Cancun Casa Blog, Cancun Tourism, Missing: Julia Howard
Posted by: Dangers @ 7:23 pm

 In a tragic story that begs more questions than answers at this point, government authorities in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico are confirming that the remains of a body found south of the Moon Palace Hotel and Resort in Cancun today, is that of Julia Howard, a missing Scottish grandmother, missing since June 16, 2009 from the resort. The Quintana Roo, State Attorney General, Carillo Rodriguez in a press conference earlier today explained that on the early evening of July 22, 2009, security personnel at a nearby ranch, Las Americas, nearby Petempich Bay in Puerto Morelos, discovered the body in an isolated, mangrove area on the ranch property, located, as per reports, some 5 kilometers south of the Moon Palace Resort, the last place Julia Howard was seen alive by family members. Of note, the 5 KM distance is approximately 3.10 miles from the last known location of Julia Howard and current press reports vary from 1-5 KM in distance. This report, today, is relying on information reported from the press conference at 11:30 AM today, referencing a prepared statement by the Attorney General of Quintana Roo and reported by Diario de Yucatan along with various other local reports including past coverage in this blog. ( Link Below)

Julia Howard

 The remains were identified in part from possessions found at the scene, including a Moon Palace Resort room key, a watch known to have been owned by Julia Howard and a hip prosthesis. Various reports also have mentioned a ring as being found and identified as Ms. Howard’s. Final forensic examinations are expected to continue of the site where Ms. Howard’s body was found.

 The Attorney General also mentioned that local officials have notified the family of Julia Howard, in the United Kingdom, via the British Consulate, and have requested the family verify and gather the remains from proper authorities for transport back to UK. The AG also stated that he doesn’t believe Ms. Howard was murdered and she likely died of natural causes, potentially starvation, the inference being that Julia Howard, on her fifth visit to the Moon Palace Resort in 5 years, went for a walk, wandered off the beaten path, became disorientated and lost, eventually ending up some 3.10 miles away before succumbing to starvation and exposure before dying.

Quintana Roo AG: Carillo Rodriguez

 The Julia Howard story has been widely publicized on both sides of the Atlantic after the 78 year old grandmother went missing from the Moon Palace Resort shortly after arrival on June 15, 2009. On June 16, 2009, based on reports, Ms. Howard was with family members near the resort’s pool area and had decided to go for a walk at a resort that she knew well from past visits (4). When Ms. Howard failed to return to the pool area after some time on the 16th, family members went looking for her, contacted hotel security and set off a widespread search by local officials for Ms. Howard. The story became controversial when Howard’s family in Cancun and the UK, publicly lambasted search efforts, hotel officials and the local Attorney General’s office. Subsequently, the Moon Palace Resort issued a statement locally in Cancun that many would consider questionable and the Quintana Roo AG publicly inferred that the family members in Cancun were responsible for her well being and had failed to take care of her.

 A statement that he once again made today at the press conference.

 The question remains, what made Julia Howard wander off into the dense, isolated underbrush of the tropical mangrove forest, while at a resort she had previously visited four times, and how did a woman whom it was previously reported in multiple press accounts, that had a difficulty walking long distances, manage to walk upwards of 3 plus miles, depending on currently reported accounts, in the tropical sun, before meeting her demise due to natural elements, and why didn’t earlier search teams, including searchers on horseback, trained search tracking dogs, helicopters and police officials find her sooner.

 And, while we’re not inferring that foul play was at hand or incompetence of the search teams, was there something else, that lured Julia Howard into the tropical forest, setting off a series of events, ending in this tragedy.

 We’ll likely never know…