As highlighted in part one, a fight for control of lucrative drug-trade routes between South America and the USA is propelling a wave of drug-gang violence in certain places in Mexico.
The three cities most affected now are: Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana and Culiacan. There have been brief flare-ups in other cities across Mexico, but these three places are where most of the violence and militarization is being played out.
Foreign consulates are excellent sources of information about local safety, as they have people and resources in-country and they are often aware of most cases relating to trouble involving their citizens living in or visiting Mexico. Besides updating their web pages regularly, they also keep statistics.
Checking the US State Department’s ‘travel advisory’ notices, and the UK’s Foreign Office ‘know before you go’ pages about Mexico, both highlight the escalating drug violence and increased risks along some areas near the US border, but neither is telling its citizens that Mexico is unsafe visit.
For example, on this US State Department briefing issued last month, the text reads thus:
“The Travel Alert for Mexico issued today reflects the current reality in Mexico, including the increased violence on the U.S.-Mexico border… The Travel Alert does not advise Americans to avoid travel to any region or city; in fact, the vast majority of the thousands of U.S. citizens who cross the border by car or fly into Mexico’s airports each day do so safely, exercising common-sense precautions during their visits. However, it is also important for people to be aware of the risks they may face so they can plan accordingly and remain attentive to their surroundings. To read this updated Travel Alert [click here]”
The UK’s Travel Advisory service happens to highlight some statistics from 2007 which help to give some perspective as to the level of safety for foreign nationals in Mexico. According to official figures 246,333 Britons visited Mexico between January and October 2007. In the whole year, the British Consulate dealt with 179 recorded incidents involving British nationals: 136 needed passport replacements; 17 were detained ‘for a variety of offences’; 14 people were hospitalized; 12 died ‘mainly from natural causes’.
Links to the US and UK Travel Advisory pages, as well as other countries’ consulate web sites may be accessed at the foot of this article.
Mexico, and its tourism industry in particular, will undoubtedly take a bruising from the headlines caused by the recent escalation of drug violence. Visitor numbers between 2006 and 2007 barely increased, although the tourism officials claimed that revenues per visitor were up in 2007. 2008 is likely to be a difficult year for the Mexican tourism industry. Notwithstanding the recent negative news-feeds, the credit crunch and rising fuel prices are taking their toll on consumer’s buying power.
Violence occurs in every country, every day, and Mexico is no exception. However, serious incidents involving visitors to Mexico are rare, and Mexico continues to attract tens of millions of foreign nationals – the majority from the USA and Canada – every year.
The official travel advisory notices from US and other foreign governments, the statistics, and the real-life experiences of millions of people visiting Mexico each year without any trouble, do not support the proposition that Mexico is unduly dangerous to visit or live in.