But even fishing, scuba diving and sunset daiquiris can get tiresome. Accustomed to hard work and achievement, newcomers established and kept up the island’s charities, locals say. Quite a few foreigners, like Mr. McAfee, started local businesses. And some fall out of synch with local culture.
“It’s one thing to vacation here and another thing living here,” said Wyoming native Tamara Sniffin, owner and editor of the San Pedro Sun, the local newspaper.
Immortalized in song by Madonna as La Isla Bonita, Ambergris Caye stretches 43 km along the blue Caribbean below the Mexican border, flanking the world’s second-largest barrier reef and some of its finest sport fishing waters.
Those attributes have attracted well-heeled foreign retirees and celebrities such as actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who owns a small island nearby.
“Here it’s just party, party, work, party,” said Iris Mavel, 27, a waitress at a restaurant favoured by Mr. McAfee. “A lot of couples who come here leave divorced. That’s why they call it Temptation Island.”
The island also has a darker side. Dumped at sea and carried ashore by the tides, bundles of Colombian cocaine flow through the island not far from Mr. McAfee’s house and on, many say, toward the Mexican border. Cocaine not recovered by the smugglers is collected by islanders, supplying a thriving local drug market that has sparked low-level gang feuds and occasional killings.
International fugitives have taken refuge here. In the summer, a Slovak man accused of murdering a woman, her 10-year-old son and a gangster in his home country was arrested on an international warrant, processed for extradition but then released by a Belizean judge.
Some townsfolk suspect Mr. McAfee is hiding on a yacht off of San Pedro. Others note that Mexico is only an hour away by the sort of fast boat Mr. McAfee owns and that passports are never checked for people landing in the oceanfront villages there.
San Pedro’s mayor believes he will surface.
“I have the feeling that this guy will turn up,” Mr. Guerrero said. “But he’ll turn up with his attorneys. He’s a big guy.”
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