Mexico's "overall reputation for crime and kidnapping is deserved"
*Updated Mar. 1, 2014*
For the second time in less than 12 months, the U.S. security consulting firm Stratfor has warned American tourists in general and spring breakers in particular about travel to some of Mexico's most prestigious resorts, including Acapulco, Cancún, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán and others.
Stratfor's report was released yesterday, and mirrors one it issued on Mar. 7, 2013. U.S. security consultant Stratfor urges tourist caution in Mexico. It cites a dozen or more incidents about which MGR has written extensively over the last 18 months. Some of those stores are linked in this one.
Stratfor noted that "While the cartels have not often intentionally targeted tourists, their violence increasingly has been on public display in popular tourist districts." Puerto Vallarta: tensions linger after brazen narco attack. It said Mexico's "overall reputation for crime and kidnapping is deserved."
The firm particularly warned travelers about "cartel gunmen operating mobile or stationary roadblocks disguised as government troops, a well-documented phenomenon." It noted the severe breakdown in law and order in Michoacán state in recent months, which required the federal government to send in a massive military force. Mexico opens investigation into U.S. citizen missing in Michoacán.
"The profound escalation of cartel-related conflict in Mexico has created an environment in which deadly violence can occur anywhere, with cartels displaying complete disregard for bystanders whatever their nationality or status. As violence escalates near Mexico's resort towns, Stratfor anticipates that the cartels will not hesitate to use all tools at their disposal to defeat their opponents. Moreover, the threat to vacationing foreigners is not just the potential of being caught in the crossfire but also of inadvertently drawing the attention and anger of cartel gunmen. Nothing in the behavior of Mexican cartels indicates that they would consciously keep tourists out of the line of fire," wrote the consultants.
Stratfor suggested that foreign nationals might be most at risk for kidnapping, a crime which has soared in Mexico in recent months. Mexico the world leader in 2013 kidnappings for ransom.
The firm also predicted that the recent arrest of Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán may exacerbate rivalries in several of Mexico's 32 states, as narco bosses compete to fill the power vacuum. Acknowledging the tendency of some cartels to morph into regional gangs, Stratfor wrote that "more localized criminal actors often see tourists as potential targets. The dividing lines between cartel and local gang activity have become increasingly blurred."
Concerning Puerto Vallarta, Strafor wrote,
"Several of Mexico's largest and most powerful cartels maintain a trafficking presence in Puerto Vallarta. Though violence related to organized crime is much less frequent than in other areas beset by criminal turf wars, it is still present there and thus presents risks to bystanders. Gunmen opened fire on a vehicle carrying three passengers, killing two and critically wounding the third, early Oct. 17, 2013, in the Romantic Zone in Puerto Vallarta. Gunmen in two trucks cut off the victims' vehicle at the intersection of Emiliano Zapata and Venustiano Carranza streets before opening fire. At least 35 rounds struck the victims' vehicle, killing two occupants, who were brothers. The tactics and the number of rounds fired suggest the killing was a targeted hit by an unidentified organized criminal group." Narco execution in Puerto Vallarta tourist zone claims two Guadalajara brothers.
"In August 2013 burglars killed a U.S. citizen living in Puerto Vallarta. His body was discovered after his maid, who was tied up during the robbery, managed to escape and alert authorities." "No clues" a common response with Puerto Vallarta P.D.
With respect to Acapulco, Stratfor cited the rapes of six Spanish tourists in a beach home last February (stories below), and this case soon after: Murder of Belgian national in bustling Acapulco tourist district.
Quintana Roo Governor Roberto Borge, whose state perhaps has the most to lose from negative security reports like Stratfor's, reacted angrily today to the firm's evaluation. He did just the same a year ago, after both the U.S. State Dept. and Texas officials issued similar warnings. Yucatán safety continues to be subject of hot debate. But the governor has acknowledged that Mexico's lush Riviera Maya - Cancún and Playa del Carmen most prominently - are infected with a substantial organized crime presence, and that the least suspected often are in their employ. Q.R. governor admits: many Cancún taxi drivers are on cartel payrolls.
Despite the nation's 86 month old drug war and Stratfor's last two reports, 2013 was a good year for Mexican tourism. Government reports issued earlier this month showed that foreign arrivals increased by 9% last year. About half of all visitors from abroad are U.S. citizens, according to federal reporting agencies. Mexican tourism up in 2013.
Most security experts agree that foreign travelers to Mexico are much more likely to be the victims of common crime than of drug war violence. Two recent cases in Guadalajara's exurbia, one involving Canadians and the other an American, illustrate that point.
Mar. 1 - In an amusing footnote to this story, the American Consul in Mérida says her office "doesn't know anything about" a security alert covering parts of the sprawling peninsula she serves, especially Cancún. Those comments were reported today by Sipse.com. Translation: The only thing Consulate personnel believe and accept as accurate are official U.S. State Department travel warnings. That's one reason why last July 15, MGR wrote Cancún and Quintana Roo are not under a U.S. advisory, but maybe they should be. Federal bureaucracy thrives just as well abroad as it does in Washington.
Mar. 4 - U.S. national on spring break murdered in Cancún
Mar. 7 - Mexican government: kidnappings up 24% in first two months of the year
Mar. 1 - At 14 months of PRI administration, 21,258 drug war dead
Feb. 17 - Michoacán belongs to organized crime: 55% of Mexicans
Dec. 30 - Mexican army captures Cancún hotel zone executioner
Dec. 15 - Mexico the world leader in 2013 kidnappings for ransom
Aug. 21 - Poor tourism prognosis concerns Puerto Vallarta official
July 15 - Cancún and Quintana Roo are not under a U.S. advisory, but maybe they should be
Apr. 23 - Guadalajara's mayor: "I'm worried about security"
Apr. 14 - Eight found executed in Cancún; taxi drivers suspected
Apr. 1 - Death toll in Guadalajara bar attacks rises to eight
Mar. 22 - Cancún under first "Red Alert" in its history
Mar. 19 - Q.R. prosecutor: expanding Gulf Cartel likely behind three recent Riviera Maya atrocities
Mar. 12 - Cancellations in Acapulco; spring breakers go elsewhere and Spain issues new warning
Mar. 9 - Jalisco Secretary of Tourism assassinated in Guadalajara
Feb. 9 - U.S. travelers: a "generalized terror" of northern Mexico
Jan. 7 - Stratfor report: Peña Nieto has no option but to follow Calderón strategy
Rapes of six Spanish tourists in Acapulco, February 2013
Feb. 4 - Spanish tourists raped, robbed on Acapulco beach front
Feb. 5 - USA Today story, quoting Mexico Gulf Reporter: Six tourists raped in Acapulco
Feb. 6 - Gunmen ambush police patrol in war torn Guerrero state, leaving nine officers dead
Feb. 8 - Today could bring arrests in Acapulco rape case, as more disturbing details emerge
Feb. 8 - Serial rapists may be responsible for Acapulco attacks - but do police have the right men?
Feb. 13 - Mexican prosecutors announce arrests in Acapulco rapes
Dec. 28 - Two cartels unite to declare war on Los Zetas in Cancún, foreshadowing a "bloodbath"
Oct. 27 - Cancún police department infiltrated by narcotics traffickers and organized crime
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