Tuesday June 19 2018

Posted by BajaInsider.com on February 21, 2018
  • Mexico is the US's #1 foreign travel destination and it is hard to find a people more welcoming than those of the Baja peninsula
    Mexico is the US's #1 foreign travel destination and it is hard to find a people more welcoming than those of the Baja peninsula
  • The Mexico Travel Warning is no reason to miss out on the wonders of a Baja vacation
    The Mexico Travel Warning is no reason to miss out on the wonders of a Baja vacation
  • Snorkeling and sight-seeing charters are a great way to explore the wonders of the Sea
    Snorkeling and sight-seeing charters are a great way to explore the wonders of the Sea
  • The famous Land's End arch in Cabo San Lucas
    The famous Land's End arch in Cabo San Lucas

Updated February 21, 2018, The latest Travel statement for Mexico was updated by the US Department of State on January 10, 2018, with a reduction of the "Mexico Travel warning" to a "Mexico Travel Advisory". The format of the advisory is new for 2018 with less boilerplate text about keeping your wallet safe and your eyes open type of thing. A Threat Level ranking on a one to four scale that puts both Baja California and Baja California Sur at a Level 2 assessment. This is good news for the booming Mexican Tourist Industry and the Mexican people who welcome you with open arms.  

Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas have all been classified as a level-four risk, the highest in the scale and have restrictions for US government employees on travel to those states. That puts them at the same levels as conflict-ridden countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

(Click here to read the most recent statistics on the Zika Virus in Mexico updated every Tuesday)

Official Travel Advisory as posted by the US DHS

Baja California state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution
Exercise increased caution due to crime.

Criminal activity and violence, including homicide, remain an issue throughout the state. According to the Baja California State Secretariat for Public Security, the state experienced an increase in homicide rates compared to the same period in 2016. While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Bystanders have been injured or killed in shooting incidents.

Due to poor cellular service and hazardous road conditions, U.S. government e

mployees are only permitted to travel on “La Rumorosa” between Mexicali and Tijuana on the toll road during daylight.

There are no U.S. government restrictions in tourist areas in Baja California, which includes: Ensenada, Rosarito, and Tijuana.

Baja California state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution
Exercise increased caution due to crime.

Criminal activity and violence, including homicide, remain an issue throughout the state. According to the Baja California State Secretariat for Public Security, the state experienced an increase in homicide rates compared to the same period in 2016. While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organization assassinations, tu

rf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Bystanders have been injured or killed in shooting incidents.

Due to poor cellular service and hazardous road conditions, U.S. government employees are only permitted to travel on “La Rumorosa” between Mexicali and Tijuana on the toll road during daylight.

There are no U.S. government restrictions in tourist areas in Baja California, which includes: Ensenada, Rosarito, and Tijuana.

The year 2017 was another banner year for tourism in Baja California Sur and all of Mexico. Mexico remains one of the top 10 worldwide tourist destinations. All major airports on the Baja peninsula reported increased international travel. Cabo San Lucas remains the #1 tourist destination on the west coast of Mexico and La Paz and Cabo San Lucas were the only Mexican ports to have an increase in cruise ship passenger traffic. All three airport of the state of Baja California Sur also reported record numbers of travelers in 2017,

More than 11 times more people will visit Mexico this year than visit England. Baja California Sur has 10 of the best beaches in Mexico on the Pacific side and Sea of Cortez side. You will find all of these beaches not only amazing places but safe as well.

Putting the Warning in Perspective

What is living on the edge dangerous to one person is the daily mundane to another, so I'll just look at the statistics and put them in perspective with daily life

While there are parts of Mexico I will not travel to at the current time, none of those ugly places are where I live in Baja California Sur. There are not highway roaming bandits looking to feed wayward tourists to their Doberman, I have yet to see a pirate in the Sea of Cortez, nor is Mexico on the verge of revolution. There is perhaps no country in the world that welcomes North Americans with such open arms. 

Also see: The Current Drug War in Baja California Sur

"Mexico: Where More Americans Are Murdered Than In All Other Foreign Countries Combined:"

This is the headline of a current article in Forbes and similar article are vogue in a number of other publications. Unfortunately, all of the similar articles I researched were based on just one statistically flawed source – that source made some grave errors in their presentation. Their research quoted numbers based on the period from 2009 to 2016 then compared those statistics to ONE year in the USA. Statistics such as this are quoted in 'homcides/per year/per capita. It IS true that the total number of homicides of US tourists was greater than all other nations, but that is because more US Citizens visit Mexico than ANY OTHER NATION by a signficant margin. 

Latest News:

The year 2016 saw a dramatic drop in the number of US citizens murdered in Mexico nationwide, despite the growing number of Americans living and vacationing here. According to the US Department of State, 265 Americans met unnatural ends in Mexico in 2016, but only 75 of them were homicides. (the balance included drownings, suicide, auto accidents and those other than natural death) That is a 24% drop over 2015. The statistic totals for 2017 are not available yet, but it would appear the trend shows a 25% increase in US Citizen homicides with a half year total for Mexico of 47. The year 2017 also saw an increase in total homicides in Mexico, setting a new record high. This was also the case in Baja California Sur which saw the state reach a homicide rate of 110 per 100,000 residents but did not include a single US foriegn national in 2017

In the first half of 2017 Baja California and Chihuahua tied for the most dangerous with 10 American homicides. Baja California Sur, despite the cartel conflict in the state, had no homicides of US tourists, just one drowning and one suicide. 

The Statistical Reality

Although the numbers may seem intimidating they need to be put in perspective. The northern state of Baja California has the highest number of US citizens in full time residence with close to 1 million. It is also the fourth most popular state for visitors. Considering JUST the resident population, that puts the homicide rate a 1 per 100,000. 

As a visitor to Mexico you have a 4 times better chance of being murdered in the US, almost a 2 times better chance of it being by a family member and about an equal chance of it being by a gun the victim purchased. (statistically speaking of course) Although those statistics are reassuring for tourists it may cause you to look with suspicion at the persons across the breakfast table.  (source US Department of State)

Click here for the complete listing of Unnatural Deaths in Mexico January to June 2017

Is there Cartel activity on the peninsula?

I have been authoring and regularly updating this article since 2014 and I wish I could tell you that the drug war that erupted in August of 2014 in Baja California Sur has abated, but it has not, in fact, it has gotten worse. I can still tell you that travelers are not the target of the cartel assassins, as not one foreign national has been injured as result of these incidents. But that is just about as reassuring as I can get. 

In 2017 the state of Baja California Sur had the highest homicides per capita of any state in Mexico and is up there with El Salvador in the over 100 per 100,000 categories. That homicide rate per capita is more than 25 time that of the US. But virtually all of these homicides were amongst combatants in the drug war and many had previous arrests for drug-related crimes. Burglaries are also up 300% and car theft has also more than doubled as organized crime branches out into other activities.

The vast majority of the cartel violence was virtually invisible to tourists and most residents. Body drops of abducted and tortured persons with police records of drug-related crimes are the most common. A majority of foreigners living in Baja that don't follow Spanish language news are completely unaware of the drug-related events.

In September 2017 the war went public again and there were shootings in public places including a Coppal Store, a resort hotel, and popular beach in San Jose del Cabo, The main tourist street in Cabo San Lucas and in Domino's Pizza and Sears in La Paz. Although no bystanders have been injured, much of that is due to luck. In the La Paz incident, more than 20 shots were fired and only two hit the intended victim. 

Some of the visible signs of the drug war in Baja California Sur are the presence of more temporary Federal Police, Mexican military patrols on the streets and an increased number of checkpoints. Initially, more than 250 federal officers were added in November 2017. Since that time there have been additional deployments of an unspecified number of officers. 

But Mexico takes the reputation of its tourist destinations very seriously.  President Nieto of Mexico promised federal aid on the issue of violence in Baja and within two weeks federal anti-cartel initiatives were launched in Sinaloa, Quintana Roo and Baja California Sur, all tourist destinations. These anticrime initiatives are to target the arrest of top criminal figures. Additionally, a "Safe Traveler" program has been implemented nationwide, information is available to tourists at most airports and all Immigration offices. 

The first week of January 2018 set a highwater mark for drug-related homicides at 31 in a 7 day period. Yet between January 10 and this date, February 21, 2018, there have been just 11 drug-related homicides. This is a dramatic statistical drop, pointing to the possible success of recent anti-crime initiatives.

The second week of February 2018 saw an invitational visit of the US Ambassador to Mexico to the state of Baja California Sur. Local officals provided a tour of the attractions of the peninsula including a visit to Carnaval La Paz and a presentation of the states efforts to control the drug related violence. 

Are there kidnappings?

As the criminal element branches out into new "markets", kidnappings have become a money maker. The good news here is most of them in Baja Sur tend to be 'virtual kidnappings' and officials informed me this is a crime rarely used on tourists, "as the criminal's English just isn't that good."

I myself have been a potential "victim". The "virtual kidnappers" usually steal the cell phone of a young person and call the most likely numbers from the stolen phone to demand a ransom. In my case, my phone number was selected at random and I received a call from a young, panicked female voice tearfully saying in poor English, "Daddy they have taken me and want money to let me go!" 

Unfortunately for these virtual kidnappers, I don't have a daughter. I hung up and reported the call to C4 (911). 

It is a good idea to establish a family 'code word' that could be used to identify a REAL abduction, but your chances of needing that code word remain remote.

Is there a Disease Threat?

The common tropical affliction of Dengue as returned in the late summer months. It is a usually non-fatal disease, although those afflicted might think otherwise, as it is very uncomfortable, to say the least. Each year there are campaigns to reduce the mosquito population, and there hasn't been a significant epidemic since 2014. 

The Zika virus has also turned up in just a handful of cases on the Baja peninsula. The single-digit number of cases would tend to indicate that the infection occurred in travel rather than in local contraction, but the Mexican Secretary of Health statistics do not differentiate the means of contraction.By the way, the same breed of mosquito that carries Zika, Dengue, and Malaria.

Despite the poor treatment by the US over the last 160 years, the Mexican people remain generally open and friendly to North American visitors. Opening trade with the US has provided economic opportunity for Mexico. The current US administration threatens to renege on. Trump administration insults, separatism, walls, and threats of trade changes have left a bitter taste in the mouth of the vast majority of Mexicans for the new US president – but rarely for Americans as a whole. It would usually be unwise to express support for these policies and the new president too loudly while in Mexico. A Trump T-Shirt would be an invitation to personal violence. 

"Bully up America", as Teddy Roosevelt would say.

When on vacation anywhere you should take extra steps to avoid being the victim of petty crime. Americans are notoriously unaware of their surroundings when traveling. (rate high as both unaware, worst dressed and only exceeded by the French as the rudest in a  recent traveler's survey) The more adventurous you get, off the beaten path or exploring sketchy neighborhoods the more you put yourself at risk. There are three kinds of people, those that like to scare, those that like to be scared and those that want to make the decision on their own. Be informed with real information when making your own risk assessment.

To wrap it all up, as a tourist one should pay more attention to events unfolding around them. Have a family plan and meeting place should you become separated and don't venture outside the usual tourist areas just for fun. So far, the cartels are not hunting tourists.

Come visit us in Baja and don't miss out. 


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