Crime In Mexico, Just Part Of The Deal

Crime in Mexico continues to concern travelers. Recent accounts of death by a drug lord urge caution when visiting Mexico, yet the country still ranks high as a desirable travel destination.
Seeming to run deeper than ever, crime has weaved its way through Mexico in some unlikely areas as well. Affecting everything from the police, accused and indicted with claims of extortion and false imprisonment, to the launch of an app that could have predicted a recent earthquake, crime continues. Maybe, just in spite of tourism-charged efforts to paint a different picture of Mexico, crime is always going to be a deadly part of the canvass.

Police in Mexico’s northern state of Tamaulipas discovered the bodies of 14 men placed in plastic bags and left in a small delivery truck just this week. All of the men, between 30 and 35 years of age, are suspected to be the victims of the ongoing war between drug cartels, as reported by news organizations as far away as the Daily Star in Lebanon.

Granted, Tamaulipas is one of the areas most affected by drug cartel violence, but the deaths still add to the more than 47,000 people killed in drug-related violence since Mexico launched its “war against organized crimes” in 2006.

To counter the perception that all of Mexico is riddled with crime, the Mexico Tourism Board is making efforts to put a new face on the country.The Mexico Taxi Project, an advertising campaign, seeks to “change perceptions about conditions that tourists find there,” said the New York Times shortly before the program’s launch last November.

In the commercials, reminiscent of a cross between the HBO series “Taxicab Confessions” and Discovery’s “Cash Cab,” we see (via hidden camera) the cab driver asking his passengers how their (insert name of city in Mexico) vacation went. Predictably, the (very touristy but believable-looking) passengers had a (wonderful, safe, fabulous, highly recommended) time and can’t wait to come back.

Nice try, probably typical of the visits of many travelers, but news of a Mexican businessman found slain recently after accusing federal police of various crimes is troubling.

Of even more concern is that the incident is not isolated. As reported by the Latin American Herald Tribune, last September, more police officers were arrested and accused of even more crimes including extortion, bodily injury, abuse of authority and crimes against health.

It seems that the element of crime in Mexico has a way of becoming part of the best, most well directed efforts one could imagine.

Mexico City, host to a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in 1985 that claimed 10,000 lives, has been developing a new Blackberry app to provide early warning for earthquakes. When it failed to work for a recent magnitude 6.5 quake, the problem was found to be that the epicenter of that quake was in an area not yet covered by the app.

Carlos Valdés, head of the National Seismologic Service, told beyondbrics that crime in the state has blocked their efforts and that seismologists have been beaten up and threatened by armed assailants on the highways of the western state of Michoacan.

Still, tourism is growing in Mexico with most locations one might visit considered safe. Our immersion in Mazatlan last year revealed a safe and friendly destination. Fans and supporters of Mexico urge travel in spite of the U.S. Department of State’s warning of caution.

Gadling’s Dave Seminara, a fan of and frequent traveler to Mexico, may have nailed the “What to do?” question in his article, “Crime in Mexico: Is Puerto Vallarta unsafe for travelers?” answering,

“…Mexican officials are smart enough to know that they’ll need to redouble efforts to prevent crimes like this one from occurring again. In the meantime, travelers who are concerned about violent crime should consider visiting smaller towns, rather than big cities – not just in Mexico but also in many countries around the world.”

[Flickr photos by sarihuella]