‘Diana, Huntress of Bus Drivers’ Takes Vengeance In Ciudad Juarez

We’ve been hearing about crime near the Mexican border for years now, but one of the most recent spates of crime is a bit different from the rest. A blonde woman who wears all black has allegedly been killing bus drivers who have sexually assaulted female passengers. Ciudad Juarez has long set the scene for brutal crimes against women and some women’s advocates aren’t surprised by the avenger’s actions. Two bus drivers were killed over the last week and the killer sent a message to news outlets claiming responsibility for the deaths.

“You think because we are women we are weak, and maybe we are, but only to a certain point,” states the message, according to the Los Angeles Times. The message goes on to say, “We can no longer remain quiet over these acts that fill us with rage. And so, I am an instrument who will take vengeance.” Bus drivers in Ciudad Juarez are terrified of the woman, who signed the letter “Diana, Huntress of Bus Drivers.”

[Thanks, Los Angeles Times]

Santorum criticizes Obama for allowing Malia to attend class trip to Mexico

The is-Mexico-safe-or-isn’t-it debate spilled over into the 2012 presidential race on Tuesday as G.O.P. hopeful Rick Santorum criticized President Obama for allowing his 13-year-old daughter, Malia, to travel to Oaxaca, Mexico, on a class trip.

“What I would say is that the president’s actions should reflect what his administration is saying,” Santorum said in an interview with conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck. “If the administration is saying that it’s not safe to have people down there, then just because you can send 25 Secret Service agents doesn’t mean you should do it. You should set an example. I think that’s what presidents do. They set an example. And when the government is saying this is not safe, then you don’t set the example by sending your kids down there.”

On Monday, Agence France-Presse reported that Malia was on a school trip in the popular colonial city known for its arts scene and vibrant zocalo, with a phalanx of twenty-five Secret Service agents to protect her. According to Politico, a number of media outlets took down their stories about the trip in order to honor a long-standing pledge to protect the privacy of President Obama’s children. The White House confirmed today that Malia and her classmates weren’t harmed in yesterday’s earthquake, which was “felt strongly” in Oaxaca according to an expert cited in a USA Today piece.

A few thoughts…

Mexico is a big country — there are 31 states and more than 100 million inhabitants. A few weeks ago, I challenged the notion that Puerto Vallarta (PV) is unsafe for American tourists and my piece generated nearly 100 comments, most with strong opinions one way or the other. American snowbirds that live in PV, or travel there each winter, believe it’s safe, but many others have been scared off by media reports of violence and think it’s not worth the risk.

According to the New York Times, Mexico welcomed a record total of more than 22 million international visitors in 2011, most from the U.S. So unlike Senator Santorum, it seems that most Americans are able to differentiate between the safe and unsafe parts of Mexico.

The State Department hasn’t advised Americans to avoid the entire country. The notion that the Obama’s are sending their daughter into an area that the government has warned against visiting is factually incorrect. There is no advisory in effect for the state of Oaxaca. I’ve been to Oaxaca before and it’s one of the most vibrant, artsy towns in the country. There have been demonstrations there in years past and an American citizen was killed in one incident in 2006, but it’s generally a safe place, even by U.S. standards.
%Gallery-151129%Is there something inherently unpatriotic about traveling abroad? Several readers who commented on my PV post opined that they were avoiding Mexico and other foreign countries because our economy needed us to stay home and spend our money here.

I can see that point but I think that Americans need to leave the country every now and then. It helps us to appreciate what we have here, it allows us to better understand how others perceive us and it gives us ideas that we can replicate or avoid here. Besides, if you’re really concerned about supporting U.S. businesses, you can travel on an American carrier and stay at a U.S. owned hotel chain.

In my day, we took field trips to the zoo — if we were lucky. Kids are really spoiled these days. I have nieces and nephews who go to Europe for class trips. We used to go to amusement parks and zoos. For the record, I think it’s terrific that Malia Obama has a chance to travel to Oaxaca, a city that I like very much. I’m just a little jealous.

Vacation at your own risk. This is a class trip for a 13-year-old girl but politics and presidential family trips can be tricky. The recent PBS documentary on Bill Clinton noted that the family changed their vacation plans from Martha’s Vineyard to Wyoming because it was perceived as more Middle America. The administration even arranged a photo shoot of Bill riding a horse.

The Obamas like to vacation in Hawaii, where the President was born and spent much of his childhood. But don’t be surprised if his summer vacation this year involves a swing state or two. Some early guesses: Virginia Beach, the Outer Banks or Rocky Mountain National Park.

Photo via the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia via Flickr. Photos of Oaxaca by Dave Seminara.

Mexico tourism adds environmentalists to list of foes

Mexico gets bad press for a number of reasons causing travelers to use extra caution when visiting south of the border. Attractions, like UNESCO biosphere sites along the Baja California Peninsula, draw travelers but a newly thriving coral reef is under threat from a mega-development planned for the area, adding environmentalists to Mexico tourism’s list of foes.

In Cabo Pulmo, Mexico, the shallow reef was a typical degraded reef 17 years ago that had been damaged by commercial boats dragging their anchors through the coral to get at valuable species that lived there.

“We started noticing there were fewer fish, and we were having to go farther out,” says Judith Castro, a local commercial fisherman. “We just saw the reef as a garden. We didn’t know the importance of it.”

Aided by local residents, the economy was gradually transformed from fishing to ecotourism, and the amount of life on the reef blossomed, increasing by 460 percent.

Now, a new sprawling project would transform the sleepy little village of Cabo Pulmo into a major tourist destination with about 30,000 hotel rooms, golf courses and a marina on a strip of seaside desert about a 90-minute drive northeast of the Los Cabos resorts.Opposing the project, The World Wildlife Fund recently brought schoolchildren bearing the flags of 70 countries to present almost 13,000 signatures from around the world asking President Felipe Calderon to cancel permits for construction at the site.

“It is unique, not only in Mexico, but in the world,” says Omar Vidal, the head of the WWF in Mexico. “It is a nursery for marine species to repopulate many areas of the Gulf of California.”

Mexico is a land rich in natural beauty and wonderful places to visit, making the country still one of the most visited in the world. Of course, this means tourism is an important part of the economy. At a time when cruise lines have canceled stops at Mexican ports and an updated US Department of State Travel Warning does not help matters, a new tourist destination is going to be awfully hard for Mexico’s government to pass up as it weighs its options.

Flickr photo by NOAA’s National Ocean Service

The ten most deadly cities in Mexico for tourists

Crime and danger traveling to Mexico have been widely publicized for a long time. As a result, tourism in Mexico has suffered to the point where even cruise lines have pulled ships from calling at ports that seem safe by all appearances. Still, numbers speak for themselves and according to a study conducted by Citizens Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice, nearly twenty-five percent of the most dangerous cities in the world are in Mexico.

Just this week, MSNBC reported that one person died in drug-related violence every half hour in Mexico last year, amounting to 48 executions per day on average, a sign that the violence surrounding the country’s powerful cartels continues unabated. Still, to a casual observer, Mexico looks like a reasonably safe place to visit or live.

Take a look at the gallery below based on per capita deaths for the surprising results.


Flickr photo by (3)

Mexico still not safe says cruise line

In the latest round of bad news for travel to Mexico, Princess Cruises pronounced parts of Mexico still not safe Monday and that they would not be calling on Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan any time soon. That’s double-bad news for a struggling Mexico that just wrapped up a week-long anti-crime campaign among other efforts to rebuild tourism. Our ongoing coverage continues.

“As the safety and security of our passengers and crew is our highest priority, and based on the continued violence in these areas, we’ve made the decision to cancel our calls to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan,” Princess spokesperson Karen Candy told USA TODAY.Concerned about violent crime that continues south of the border, the line renewed its objection first voiced in January by canceling calls to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan through the end of the year. Princess had only one ship visiting Puerto Vallarta this year, the 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess, and that ship will miss just three stops. But beyond economic void caused by the 7000 or so passengers that might have gone ashore, the message is clear: Mexico has a long way to go to win back the confidence of cruise lines.

Mexico knows that and has heard the call for safety loud and clear.

Deploying more than 300,000 police officers, Mexico just concluded a week-long anti-crime campaign that resulted in over 3000 arrests and the recovery of 1,258 stolen vehicles.

“The fundamental purpose was to prevent and fight crime, such as vehicle theft, robberies of passengers during transport, kidnappings, recovery of arms and dismantling of criminal gangs, as well as actions intended to ensure compliance with judicial orders” the government said in a statement reports MSN News.

In addition, Mexico tourism officials have been working overtime to paint a picture of a different Mexico, and with good reason. The continuing violent crime in Mexico is isolated to remote areas of the country where tourists would not normally go. That’s important information for travelers that Mexico officials want us to know.

Mazatlan, poster-city for Mexico crime vs cruise ships, could have done without this latest news from Princess Cruises. Many visitors arrive in Mazatlan not via cruise ship but by air with American Airlines recently adding non-stop daily service between Dallas (DFW) and Mazatlan (MZT).

“Tourism is very important to Mazatlan and its residents. The destination plays host to nearly 2 million visitors per year from all over the world and the number has increased steadily for the past five years” said Julio Birrueta, spokesperson for the Mazatlan Tourism Trust.

Crime involving tourists is an ongoing problem in Mexico. Tourism officials have been accused of attempting to minimize the issue. The US Department of State has urged caution visiting Mexico issuing a Travel Warning in September of last year saying “It is imperative that U.S. citizens understand the risks involved in travel to Mexico.”

Risks or not, Mexico remains a popular vacation destination as well as home for many American, British and Canadians who find the cost of living, climate and lifestyle of Mexico attractive.

In our latest coverage of trouble in Mexico we saw that Mexico travel safety kind of depends on who or what we listen to.

On one hand we have the tourism people like Gloria Guevara, Mexico’s secretary of tourism who told who the Miami Herald “We do have a challenge, but Mexico has the equivalent of 2,500 counties. What I tell the travelers is they need to get a map. It would be very helpful for them to understand what cities are involved.” adding “They might have trouble in Juarez; 2,000 miles from there is totally safe. It’s like in the U.S.: If there is an issue in L.A., does that mean that you don’t go to New York? Or if there is an issue in Las Vegas, do you not go to Chicago?”

On the other hand, recent news supports the decision made this week by Princess Cruises. Leonard Schell a Canadian father of two was stabbed 25 times in his Puerto Valarta home last month and robbed of about $13,000, bank cards and passports reports CTV.ca. “They cut him from his lip to his throat. It’s terrible, and just to rob money,” Schell’s wife, Elba Ruiz said.

Princess hasn’t canceled Puerto Vallarta calls on sailings beyond the first of next year though. Maybe there’s hope yet for a return in the future.

What do you think? Vote in our poll and leave a comment too.


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Flickr photo by HBarrison