posted Jun 9, 2013, 9:40 AM by Hernan Cortes
updated Jun 9, 2013, 9:50 AM
Mexico: As dangerous - and safe - as ever! Violence in Mexico is back in the news and so is the perennial question: Is Mexico safe?
In just the last few weeks there have been stories of 12 young people allegedly abducted in daylight from a Mexico City club; the death by beating of Malcolm X's grandson, also in the capital; the kidnapping of a U.S. Marine reservist from his father's ranch; the freeing of 165 people, including two pregnant women, who had been held prisoner; and the case of an Arizonan mom traveling on a bus who was arrested and jailed, accused of smuggling drugs.
That's all before you look at the staggering toll of the years-long war between security forces and drug cartels -- at least 60,000 people killed in drug-related violence from 2006 to 2012, according to Human Rights Watch. Other observers put the number even higher.
Outside of war zones, more Americans have been killed in Mexico in the last decade than in any other country outside the United States, and the number of U.S. deaths jumped from 35 in 2007 to 113 in 2011.
But those numbers do not lead to any simple conclusion.
Millions of Americans visit Mexico every year without incident, and the number of tourists continues to grow. Nearly 6 million U.S. citizens visited Mexico in 2012, according to data from Mexico's tourism ministry. The first quarter of 2013 has seen a 5.9% uptick in American tourists compared to a year before, the ministry reported.
Analysts and travel experts agree that security in Mexico varies -- sometimes dramatically -- from place to place. It's a contradiction -- Mexico is both as dangerous as ever or as safe as ever, depending on one's destination, actions and common sense.
"I think what you see in Mexico over the past few years is this movable target of what's safe and what's not safe," said Shannon K. O'Neil, senior fellow for Latin America studies at the Council for Foreign Relations.
Of course you can be hurt anywhere, but the risks are different for a business trip to the capital, seeking sun and sand in Cancun or visiting family across the border.
"Physical safety if you are in the main tourist areas and you are sensible is not a problem," in Mexico City, said John Bailey, professor emeritus at Georgetown University who has researched public security in Mexico. "Bad things happen to good people, but that's just a small fraction."
The State Department has issued no travel advisories for Mexico City.
The majority of the millions of Americans who visit Mexico head to resort cities along its coasts. The most popular destinations, according to Mexican officials, are Cancun, Riviera Maya, Los Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta.
And while it's impossible to separate completely the parts of Mexico on drug routes from where tourists go, there is a level of separation, O'Neil said.
Drug trafficking may happen in Cancun just like anywhere else, but the tourist areas are typically safe, she said.
One thing the tourist destinations have in common, besides beaches, is that none is the subject of a travel advisory. Jill Noble, owner of Cruise Therapy Travel Co. in Texas, staunchly defends Mexico as a safe destination. "I've never felt threatened in any way, and that's what I tell my clients," she said.
She blames the media for focusing on the negative and provoking fear in would-be travelers.
Credits Content: Mariano Castillo/CNN. Find the complete report here..