An influential Senate committee has opened an investigation into recent alcohol poisonings and blackouts of U.S. tourists to Mexican resorts, including one at a posh Cancun area all-inclusive that claimed the life of a Wisconsin woman in January.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee kicked off the probe with a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week demanding what it knows about the reports and why the department issued a warning to tourists about drinking alcohol in Yucatan resorts.
"I write to request information about a number of reported incidents of American tourists vacationing in Mexico consuming potentially tainted alcohol, including information regarding the death of 20-year-old Wisconsinite, Abbey Connor," penned the chairman of the committee, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.
Johnson has been conducting his own probe into Connor's death and the reports of others being poisoned by bad alcohol in the resort area popular with Americans. Connor died in January days after she and her brother were found face down in a pool after drinking at the Iberostar Paraiso del Mar, between Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
In his letter, Johnson revealed that he has met with Mexican authorities on behalf of Connor's parents, John and Ginny McGowan. But, he said that the resort and local authorities haven't been helpful.
"I continue to share the McGowan family's concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding what happened. I am waiting on a response from the Mexican Embassy to a number of my questions, and I request that the [State] Department do everything in its power to obtain information from the Mexican government to help provide this Wisconsin family some closure," wrote Johnson.
Since the death of Connor, 20, one bar at the resort was closed, 10,000 gallons of "illicit alcohol" was seized, and State issued its warning.
Johnson's letter, provided below, requests information about what State knows about the affair and the alcohol that prompted the warning. He also wants to know if the department has received reports of other poisonings, some of which have been documented by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Key questions from Johnson included in his letter:
- What factors contributed to the department's decision to add language to its website on travel to Mexico regarding potentially tainted alcohol?
- What communications have occurred between the department and the government of Mexico regarding potentially tainted alcohol?
- Has any information or reports from the recent suspension of the bar at the Iberostar Paraiso del Mar resort been provided to the department?
- How should Americans report incidents involving potentially tainted alcohol to the department?
- Does the department track the number of incidents at Mexican resorts involving potentially tainted alcohol?
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org