The State Department inspector general has opened an investigation into the department’s poor handling of complaints from U.S. tourists about tainted alcohol at five-star Mexican resorts highlighted by suspicions a 20-year-old Wisconsin woman died after consuming bad Mexican booze.
The move was prompted by Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who has been pressing for answers from State about its handling of the death in Mexico of Abbey Connor of Pewaukee, Wisc., and other reports of tainted alcohol in resort towns like Cancun.
“Thank you for your letter...which raises important questions regarding the Department of State’s response to incidents involving potentially tainted alcohol,” State Inspector General Steve A. Linick wrote in a response to Johnson, provided to Secrets.
“This office has initiated a preliminary inquiry to better understand the Department’s policies and procedures for handling such complaints,” he added.
Johnson has made it part of his mission to dig into the January death of Connor, and multiple reports of tainted alcohol and other issues faced by American tourists and inadequate State responses.
In his October letter to Linick, Johnson said that State couldn’t produce any reports of complaints from tourists and indicated that U.S. officials in Mexico weren’t helpful to Americans.
He said that State has issued a warning on its webpage to American tourists about bad booze, but suggested more was required since nearly half of all liquor provided at even five-star resorts is tainted.
And worse, he added, “In some cases, consular officials in Mexico have reportedly taken several days to notify family members of a tourist’s death in Mexico. In light of the allegations of tainted alcohol being served to American tourists, the department ought to be closely working with Mexican officials to ensure the safety of our citizens abroad.”
The Connor case has led to broad scrutiny of Mexican resorts. Wisconsin’s other senator, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, for example, wants the influential website TripAdvisor to be probed for allegedly failing to post reviews from travelers who claim they were sexually assaulted at Mexican resorts.
At a press briefing this week, State Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said she was unaware of the inspector general's probe. She noted that State has put out warnings about Mexico and said reports of tainted liquor were "very credible."
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com