Guy W. Farmer: Mexico too dangerous for vacation destination
For the Nevada Appeal
Some of my longtime friends, including several Nevadans, love to travel to Mexico, spending weeks at a time in lovely colonial towns or lush seaside resorts. I think they should reassess their vacation plans.
“We’ll be just fine,” they tell me. “We’re in a gated community surrounded by fellow Americans and English-speaking Mexicans.”
No worries, right?
Wrong, because drug violence has spread well beyond dangerous border cities like Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, and Americans should take off the blinders and face the bloody facts.
It pains me to join the State Department in issuing a travel warning for Mexico, a country I’ve had a special relationship with for many years. My late wife was from Mexico and my children are Mexican-Americans. Moreover, I worked at the American Embassy in Mexico City in the early 1970s.
Here’s an excerpt from the State Department’s carefully worded travel warning: “While millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year … violence in the country has increased. It is imperative that U.S. citizens understand the risks in Mexico, how best to avoid dangerous situations and who to contact if victimized. U.S. citizens traveling throughout Mexico should exercise caution in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times.”
The sad fact is that drug violence has accounted for nearly 20,000 deaths in Mexico over the past 10 years, including the murders of three Americans who had ties to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez earlier this month. The victims were returning to their homes in El Paso, Texas, following a children’s birthday party just across the border; their children were unharmed. For the record, there were more than 2,600 murders and nearly 2,000 carjackings in Ciudad Juarez last year.
According to the FBI, the three American shooting victims were targeted by a local gang affiliated with the powerful Juarez Drug Cartel.
“They were certainly targeted,” said an FBI spokeswoman, “but at this point there’s no indication that the victims were targeted due to their affiliation with the Consulate.”
I’m skeptical, however, because when three Americans are targeted in two separate shooting incidents on the same day, it’s more than a coincidence.
President Obama was “deeply saddened and outraged” by the Ciudad Juarez slayings and promised continued cooperation with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who is valiantly attempting to combat the cartels and clean up Mexico’s corrupt judicial system. The U.S. is already providing more than $1 billion per year in anti-drug aid to Mexico, but more is needed to prevent violence from spilling northward across the border.
• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, has been visiting Mexico for more than 50 years.