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article imageHow safe is Mexico? It depends on who you ask

By Karen Graham     Nov 8, 2019 in World
How safe is Mexico? After an attack Monday that left nine American citizens dead and with the country on track to record its most violent year in recent history, more and more people are asking the question.
The most recent murders of nine people holding dual citizenship in the U.S. and Mexico comes on the heels of other highly publicized murders, including an American couple killed in front of their 12-year-old son this summer in Guerrero, and 27-year-old honeymooner Tatiana Mirutenko, who was caught in stray gunfire while emerging from a Mexico City bar.
The U.S. Department of State has the statistics for Americans killed in Mexico in 2018. A total of 196 U.S. citizens died in Mexico in 2018 of whom 67 were murdered. The remainder died as a result of accidents, according to Mexico News Daily.
And if we look at the statistics on homicides in Mexico, last year the country had the highest number of homicides in the country’s history, with an average of 91 deaths a day. This year, Mexico is already on track to break last year's record. This is because drug cartels and criminal organizations are running rampant in the country, and have infiltrated public offices, police departments, and businesses.
Tamaulipas has become one of the most violent states in Mexico as rival drug cartels fight each othe...
Tamaulipas has become one of the most violent states in Mexico as rival drug cartels fight each other for its strategic position on the US border
Julio Cesar AGUILAR, AFP
In April, gunmen killed 14 people in the city of Minatitlan. In August, Jalisco cartel gunmen seized a nightclub in the city of Coatzacoalcos, blocked the doors and set a fire that killed 28 people. Earlier that month, the same cartel hung 19 bodies from a bridge in the Mexican city of Uruapan.
Federal crimes in Mexico also increased by 18 percent in 2018, including the possession of weapons, drug trafficking, and kidnapping. It seems that Mexico has had no success with ending the reign of terror caused by the gangs and cartels.
Mexico's war on the drug cartels began in 2006 under President Felipe Calderón. Calderon used the military in the war on the cartels. It was continued when Enrique Pena Nieto served as president.
The Mexican government deployed the army in 2006 to crack down on the country's powerful drug c...
The Mexican government deployed the army in 2006 to crack down on the country's powerful drug cartels
GUILLERMO ARIAS, AFP/File
When Lopez Obrador became president in January this year, he called off the militarized war against the cartels. Instead, he created a National Guard and says the way to fight Mexico’s violent crime is with work programs and opportunities for young people.
On Tuesday, as everyone will remember, Lopez Obrador turned down an offer from President Donald Trump to use American troops to fight the cartels. “We declared war, and it didn’t work,” Lopez Obrador said.
Former anti-drug prosecutor Samuel Gonzalez said that the government will have to change. "The cartels “have declared war on the government,” Gonzalez said, adding that "the government will have to answer with force."
Famous in its heyday as a destination for Hollywood stars  from John Wayne to Sylvester Stallone  Ac...
Famous in its heyday as a destination for Hollywood stars, from John Wayne to Sylvester Stallone, Acapulco has become more known in recent years as the scene of bloody turf wars between drug cartels
PEDRO PARDO, AFP
You've just got to be careful
Interestingly, Forbes asked Carlos Barron, a 25-year veteran of the FBI about how safe Mexico was today. Barron spent time investigating major Mexican drug trafficking organizations in the country before retiring in 2016. He started US Traveler Assist (USTA), a safety and security company that provides American travelers with expert in-country resources and on-the-ground fixers.
“Millions of Americans go to Mexico on vacation every year, so if we play the numbers game, the number of incidents is very small,” points out Barron. “When I'm asked if Mexico is a safe place to go travel on vacation, my response is yes.”
Barron points out that it isn't the drug cartels you need to worry about, but rather, being too distracted while you’re on vacation and doing things that you wouldn’t do at home. “I know it seems like — 25 years in the FBI and this is what you're telling me? But at the end of the day, personal safety comes down to common sense,” says Barron.
Mass graves have become all too common in Mexico as drug cartels and the army fight violent battles ...
Mass graves have become all too common in Mexico as drug cartels and the army fight violent battles over the lucrative narcotics trade
ILSE HUESCA, AFP
“Be smart about where you go. How are you going to get from the airport to your resort? When you check into a hotel, did you lock your door and use the top lock? What if something happens? Do I have the number of the embassy? Have I filled out a form for the Department of State so they know that I am traveling? Always think of safety and security as something that's part of your trip.”
Well, with that being said, the U.S. State Department has issued a Travel Advisory Warning for Mexico with a level 2 on a scale of 1 to 4, meaning "exercise increased caution." There are a few locations where the advisory is a level 4, meaning stay away - like Michoacán (where the most recent murders took place), Guerrero and Sinaloa.
“While Mexico does suffer from high crime and homicide rates — undoubtedly linked to the drug trade — many areas of the country are still safe to visit, even for women,” Suzanne Sangiovese said. Basically, travelers are advised to use common sense, just as they would while traveling in the U.S.
More about Mexico, traveler safety, gang warfare, Homicides, Travel advisory
 
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