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What if the Shoe Was on the Other Foot? Some Thoughts on Violent Crime and Tourism
email this pageprint this pageemail usLola -
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December 24, 2010

What if CNN headlines blared ďDrug Violence Claims 4 Lives in Popular Vacation DestinationĒ every time a gang-banger (any color, any race) shot up a rival gangís sidewalk in Los Angeles? What if Fox News ran a constant ticker that read ďMurder Chose Chicago 131 Times This YearĒ and held forms discussing why the city should be boycotted? (In fact, September in that city ended last week with 30 homicides. Nearly 20% of the victims were teens.) Should travel warnings be issued for the Windy City? Should we close up California because, according to the LAPD, even though overall gang crimes fell 12.2 percent, 31 more people were shot [this year] in suspected gang crimes, an increase of 4.9 percent?

Mexico is a great country. Itís a beautiful country. And if you stay away from the scary section of town, if you donít deal drugs, if you arenít a hooker and you steer clear of shady bars, chances are youíll have a ball and be safe in every city, coast to coast.
I wouldnít be lying if I said the US has more violence than other first-world countriesóand thatís been a fact even before drug use in this country escalated to the point where every enterprising dealer south of the border wanted a piece of the action. We have more robberies, rapes and assaults here. We glorify violence in our movies and our TV shows. We breed serial killers. Meth labs are popping up like daisies in the suburbs (and we all know how sweet and mellow meth-heads can be). We are now even venturing into suicide promotion with the sudden spike of bullying in our schools.

SoÖ honestly. Where are our travel warnings?

Are you mad yet? You should be. This is a great country. Itís a beautiful country. And if you stay away from the scary section of town, if you donít deal drugs, if you arenít a hooker and you steer clear of shady bars, chances are youíll have a ball and be safe in every city, coast to coast. Itís not a guarantee, though, because even in this great nation of ours, innocent lives have been claimed in crossfire. But the police scanners certainly wonít keep me from enjoying the fall weather along the Navy Pier in Chicago or spending a weekend of pure fun in Los Angeles.

So why should I cancel my visit to Puerto Vallarta? Or forget my plans to visit Mexico City for a week?

I shouldnít. And neither should you.

Yes, be careful. Yes, take normal precautions. No, donít go to the locus of the cartels for a drive or a drink.

I know Iím not the only one out there who thinks this way. Iím not a lone voice in the wilderness, but sometimes it sure feels that way. So, Iím doing what I can with the tools I have.

Here are just a couple of links from like-minded people. I know there are many more of you out there. Raise your voice. Let it be heard. Thousands upon thousands of people in Mexico depend on tourism for their livelihood. People who canít feed their children become desperate. And we all know about desperate people. Please help reverse this desperation by looking beyond the headlines.

•  R E A D E R S '  C O M M E N T S  •

When I travel to Tijuana, Cancun, Guanajuato, Morelia, PV or Cabo San Lucas, my Mexican friends make the same arguments as Lola regarding the number of serious crimes committed in the US versus Mexico and the exageration of the threat of violence in Mexico by the US media.

Even discounting the fact that the US population is several times larger than Mexico, I think you would have to admit that the severity of crime is of a different magnitude in Mexico - we don't have many beheadings, torturing of people or corpses hanging from bridges with narco mensajes.

The most important point that so many defenders of Mexico miss is that it's not just the number of crimes that is so threatening to Americans it's the lack of protection in Mexico. You can be anywhere in the US and if you are imminiently threatened you can call 911 and a police officer will immediately respond and protect you with his/her life. Can you honestly say that same level of protection and confidence in the police exists anywhere in Mexico? Would a police officer in Mexico stand in front of an extranjero in Mexico threatened by narcos?

If wealthy Mexican families are moving to the US because they are afraid of being kidnaped, extorted or killed and they have lost confidence in the ability of the Mexican police or military to protect them, how safe are American tourists?

While you are certainly correct about the ranking of the US in the number and severity of crimes, especially in comparison with other developed countries, again the difference with Mexico is that we also have the highest rate of arrests, conviction and incarceration of criminals.

While many Mexicans and American expats argue that the threat to tourists is minimal, based on statistical evidence, what would be the chances of survival if the tourist was targeted by a Zeta or narco? The statistics of violence to tourists are very low because the criminals have not targeted tourists, but is that really protection or just luck so far?

Hopefully the violence will subside with the election of a new presidante in 2012, but are you really confident the violence won't become worse next week, month, year?

Respectfully, R Fung

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