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Kidnappings and Violence in Mexico
Old 12-22-2008, 03:36 AM   #1
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Kidnappings and Violence in Mexico

Apparently the drug gangs are fighting the government and violence has risen.

Nine headless bodies found in Mexico - CNN.com

Kidnapping of Americans and others (who can pay ransom) is up as gangs look for other sources of revenue.

Mexico drug gang likely behind US kidnapping | Reuters

Might be a good time to skip Mexico as a tourist destination.
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Old 12-22-2008, 07:24 AM   #2
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These headlines make Mexico a better place to visit. It keeps many tourists away freeing up bargains galore for us.

We just completed a one month trip through south eastern Mexico. We flew from Guadalajara to Oaxaca, bused our way down to the beaches of Puerto Escondido where the body surfing was excellent. Then we slowly worked our way up the coast, 600 miles, again traveling by local buses stopping and staying in many places. Finally reaching Melaque before returning to our base in Chapala.

We stayed in Mexican hotels where many times we were the only Gringos, or for that matter, the only guests. We found this to be the same when we took local transport using the comfy buses.

If you come here dripping of jewels, yielding loads of cash, staying in resorts, brandishing an attitude and leave your brains at the border, you are going to be a target.

Use a little common sense and you’ll be fine.

We put a piece about this trip on our website. Does it look like we were concerned?

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Old 12-22-2008, 07:32 AM   #3
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or as found on the Tioga & George blog (10 Dec 2008):

Scared of Mexico?
A reader wrote asking, "Are you telling us that in all your travels through Mexico no one has put any kind of scare into you?"

It is true that I have found Mexico to be a very peaceful place for me to live. I've read about drug crime, including murders. However, I've never seen any sign of this kind of criminal activity.

For me I've found that being scared comes from inside, from my imagination. I do not want my imagination ruining my good times. So, I don't let it.
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Old 12-22-2008, 08:00 AM   #4
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I think most of the problems in Mexico are concentrated around the border towns as a result of dueling drug gang activity. At least that's what the local news media here in northern Mexico tell us...
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Old 12-22-2008, 08:08 AM   #5
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I think most of the problems in Mexico are concentrated around the border towns as a result of dueling drug gang activity. At least that's what the local news media here in northern Mexico tell us...
I'd think so, too. I think most of the areas frequented by upscale tourists are pretty well policied by the Mexican authorities, knowing where their local bread is buttered.

That's common with a lot of cities that are tourist destinations. It's not uncommon for a city to have a lot of dangerous pockets in it, but the area frequented by tourism is usually clean and pretty safe, and law enforcement generally frowns on local riff-raff hurting the tourism industry. You just have to know not to stray off the beaten path.
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Old 12-22-2008, 09:07 AM   #6
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Mexico is still a relatively safe place for tourists to visit, and I guess the same goes for gringo expats who choose to live there. Don't be stupid and don't go to the wrong places and you will probably be alright.

There have been changes though. A little over ten years ago the drug violence started getting out of hand. Things that would have never happened started happening with increasing frequency until we get to where we are today: a war between drug dealers and each other and all of them warring with the government.

It's because the situation in Mexico has changed from it being a place where smugglers moved drugs into the US for other people, to one where Mexican groups produce or own the drugs that are being moved. The difference being that there is a lot more money involved, and, to some, that's worth killing over. Plus the government has apparently decided that they want to be in charge now and that means there is another little war between it and the drug dealers.

Eventually, I guess, the warring will cease because someone will win, and Mexico will go back to the way it was. A lot of crooked stuff goes on, but stays out of sight.

The only things I would worry about right now are the fact that the kidnapping industry has grown and gotten more violent, and some of the fighting between groups and the government has spilled out into public places in very dramatic gun battles. The former seems to be targeting wealthy Mexicans and the latter is about as predictable as being struck by lightning.
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Old 12-22-2008, 09:31 AM   #7
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So then. Where are all the safest cities in the United States? "Going Postal," for instance, has nothing to do with the Correos de México.

I recall several years ago a (IIRC) documentary or article whose premise was that this type of fear is brought about by being unfamiliar with the people around one. (or something like that.) For example, those that never venture out after dark have an unreasonable fear of visiting even the most friendly shopping mall in the evening -- or even getting mail from their street-side mailbox after the Sun goes down -- because of all the "bad guys" who only come out at night. Conversely, those who live in the most (allegedly) dangerous neighborhoods harbor no such fears.
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Old 12-22-2008, 10:52 AM   #8
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Eventually, I guess, the warring will cease because someone will win, and Mexico will go back to the way it was. A lot of crooked stuff goes on, but stays out of sight.
For an alternate outcome, look at Colombia. There has been extensive violence for over 50 years, with no real sign of letting up. Actually, Colombia was born violently, and has continued that way with little respite ever since. And compared to Mexico, Colombian government is clean.

And the Dems want to take away advantageous trade terms so that coffee and roses are no longer worth much. But cocaine- always worth a lot!

Ha
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Old 12-22-2008, 11:07 AM   #9
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I think most of the problems in Mexico are concentrated around the border towns as a result of dueling drug gang activity. At least that's what the local news media here in northern Mexico tell us...
These kidnappings are creeping north of the border and they are not all drug related anymore, unless something happens in Mexico to curb the current binge of violent lawlessness we will see it growing on this side of the border exponentially - & that won't just be limited to border towns or even border states.

Why do bank robbers rob ?- cause that's where the money is. Same with kidnappers.
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Old 12-22-2008, 11:08 AM   #10
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Conversely, those who live in the most (allegedly) dangerous neighborhoods harbor no such fears.
This is actually not true. First, more violence does occur at night. Second, people who live within the law in bad neighborhoods know this, and stay in at night unless they are young and need to go out for fun or older and need to go out for work or utlilitarain reasons.

Just south of me is a cheaper neighborhood undergoing gentrification. Not gays and artsy types, but mostly young people who want to be closer to downtown than other places wih at least somewhat affordable rents and purchase prices.

I get tempted from time to time to look down there. Last Tuesday I was on a bus going from dowtown to a classy area on Lake Washington where I am doing some pet care. The particular bus I was on was running a truncated route- it let us out in the CD. I figured rather than wait for another bus I would just walk the 1/1/2 miles to the water and have look around. Lots of intersting looking Ethipian restaurants, lots of young men standing on the corners making one walk around or cross the street to pass by. I was glad I would be out of there before dark.

Then later that eveing I saw on the news that a young black man had been shot in the face on one of the corners I had passed. He was in critical condition; all the others involved or bystanding ran. A detective who is part of a gang violence unit came on and said that gangs from the CD are warring with gangs from Rainier Valley.

My brother once said that he would rather live in a studio in a nice area than a mansion in a bad one. I think overall this is a good idea.

Ha
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Old 12-22-2008, 11:25 AM   #11
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Old 12-22-2008, 01:28 PM   #12
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This is actually not true. First, more violence does occur at night. Second, people who live within the law in bad neighborhoods know this, and stay in at night unless they are young and need to go out for fun or older and need to go out for work or utlilitarain reasons.
Yes, you are correct. (And I agree.) I should have (and meant to have) said "such 'unreasonable' fear". I, now, wish I had read more than the abstract or watched the trailer. I could have explained it less poorly. <sheepish grin> In any event, your experience validates what I was trying to say: that violence is the same all over no matter how badly we want it to be somewhere else. How often we hear people say, "I never thought it could happen here."

Again the wisdom of George: "I do not want my imagination ruining my good times. So, I don't let it."
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Old 12-22-2008, 01:43 PM   #13
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Yes, you are correct. (And I agree.) I should have (and meant to have) said "such 'unreasonable' fear". I, now, wish I had read more than the abstract or watched the trailer. I could have explained it less poorly. <sheepish grin> In any event, your experience validates what I was trying to say: that violence is the same all over no matter how badly we want it to be somewhere else. How often we hear people say, "I never thought it could happen here."

Again the wisdom of George: "I do not want my imagination ruining my good times. So, I don't let it."
I see what you are saying, and indeed violence can happen anywhere. Anywhere is after all where husbands and wives and children shoot one another.

But violence is more likey to happen in some ares than others- much more likely.

I understand that people who really want to go to Mexico for financial or other reasons would want to look on the bright side. It's just our old friend cognitive dissonance again. But if your map of the environment is a poor match for the environment, given enough exposure you may well get into trouble.

It is actuarial. The actuary that refuses to cover your fireworks manufacturing shed doesn't necesarily think that it will blow up, but he knows that as a class fireworks sheds are a considerable risk.

Like someone said above, you aren't at much if any risk in Cancun. But if you wander you will be swimming in different water.

As for George's "wisdom", I see it more as George's opinion. There is a good evolutionary reason why humans have active imaginations.

When I was married my wife kept us out of sticky situations more than once because my imagination about danger is sometimes turned down too low.

ha
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Old 12-23-2008, 04:54 AM   #14
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Old 12-23-2008, 08:17 AM   #15
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DH will be heading to Guatemala next month for a hiking trip, and I warned him to avoid the obviously dangerous places at night. His risk meter is pretty high, though, so I don't expect problems in the areas he's going. Just in case, though, he's grown a fierce full beard that makes him look more like a terrorist and less like a rich gringo. Not quite ZZ Top, but certainly on the way!

I hope to go to the Yucatan next Fall, to Isla Holbox for the whale shark migration. I am looking forward to driving in Mexico. My imagination is woefully inadequate, though!
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Old 12-23-2008, 08:35 AM   #16
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And don't go anywhere near where there would be a balding white man.

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Old 12-23-2008, 08:47 AM   #17
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United States cities by crime rate - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
http://www.wikicrimes.com/

Generally speaking, violent crime happens in relatively poor areas of cities versus the more affluent. The problem is not with the general population in the area it is the concentration of the economic, health, political and social conditions. I hope this doesn't need to be explained - too much typing.

I would agree that more violent crime happens after dark due to people being home from work, drugs, alcohol.

It can be difficult to pick out a bad area outside the USA. I grew up in NYC and my radar for a bad area in the USA is pretty good. Outside the USA is more difficult as the same visual clues are not there. When I find myself in a bad area outside the USA, I usually turn on my NYC attitude and get out of there.

It is difficult not to look like you are from the USA in most areas of the world - even before you speak.
We tend to :
be Large
Smile more
Wear brighter clothes
Have a lot of things with us

As far as the kidnapping goes for your or me - I would guess they would not just grab the first person they see. I would guess someone would approach you in a restaurant and try to size you up - are you traveling alone, what do you do for a living, how big is you house etc. These are questions you want to answer with getting the idea across that you and your family are poor.
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Old 12-23-2008, 11:32 AM   #18
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...
It is difficult not to look like you are from the USA in most areas of the world - even before you speak.
We tend to :
be Large
Smile more
Wear brighter clothes
Have a lot of things with us

As far as the kidnapping goes for your or me - I would guess they would not just grab the first person they see. I would guess someone would approach you in a restaurant and try to size you up - are you traveling alone, what do you do for a living, how big is you house etc. These are questions you want to answer with getting the idea across that you and your family are poor.
One of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me was in Mexico - as he and his group were leaving an Italian who spoke more English than I did Italian told me it was nice to meet a small American. Probably a foot or so taller than him. I tip well these days, but continue to feel that it's more important to acknowledge and respect the humanity of those with whom i come in contact - with more than money.
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Old 12-23-2008, 03:08 PM   #19
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I understand that people who really want to go to Mexico for financial or other reasons would want to look on the bright side. It's just our old friend cognitive dissonance again.

As for George's "wisdom", I see it more as George's opinion. There is a good evolutionary reason why humans have active imaginations.

When I was married my wife kept us out of sticky situations more than once because my imagination about danger is sometimes turned down too low.



Hi Ha,
I read a book last year by Gavin de Becker called The Gift of Fear.


Mr. De Becker takes the position that violence isn’t just ‘random’ and that clues and access to information which can prevent us from becoming a victim is available beforehand. He explains that caution is different than fear, fear itself is actually a gift that can save our lives, and that gut instinct is different than imagination.

When questioning victims of violence about their incident, a very high percentage will admit that they knew ‘something wasn’t right’ or that they felt strangely (felt someone was watching, had a prickly sensation down their neck or back, began to sweat, turmoil in their stomach, etc.) about ‘that place, that car, those people, that room’ or whatever before they shushed themselves up and went ahead into that situation anyway.

In other words, we 'know' but don't take our warning signs seriously.

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Like someone said above, you aren't at much if any risk in Cancun. But if you wander you will be swimming in different water.
I could be misunderstanding you here cause I know you do have common sense, but places like Cancun (where it is built especially for tourists, the prices are lots higher than in a nearby neighborhood, a visitor is surrounded by wealth from the rooms they stay in, the clothes they wear, the restaurants they frequent, and the taxi drivers’ pricing) and other tourist destinations have their own set of problems - along the lines of “why do bank robbers rob banks? Because that is where the money is.”

Kidnappers (or robbers) could think that taking someone who can afford these locations would give a higher yield than someone in faded clothing wearing flip flops in a nearby neighborhood.

Billy and I have been ‘wandering’ the world now for over 18 years, mostly staying clear of places like Cancun and large tourist destinations. Fortunately, we have avoided violent situations or being robbed. I think it is a matter of keeping a low profile, not being loud, not getting so drunk you can’t find your way back home, not going down dark streets late at night, following common sense and our instincts, etc.

Dex
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As far as the kidnapping goes for your or me - I would guess they would not just grab the first person they see. I would guess someone would approach you in a restaurant and try to size you up - are you traveling alone, what do you do for a living, how big is you house etc. These are questions you want to answer with getting the idea across that you and your family are poor.
I imagine those things are true. And believe me when vendors ask politely 'Where are you from? Where are you staying? Where did you just eat?" They want to know that because they want to know what price they might be able to get from you - they are not 'just being friendly'... I hate to be so cynical, but put it into context...

And getting back to De Becker’s book, he says violence doesn’t normally happen to someone who looks confident, looks like they know where they are going, walks with a purpose, etc. Perpetrators look for someone who is distracted, looks lost, looks weak, has their purse, money bag or belongings helter skelter while they are looking at a map, have their hands full, looks worried or down, etc. They look for ‘weak’ not strong.

He suggested that if you are lost or trying to get your bearings, that you step inside a building and gather yourself, then go back onto the street. Distraction or desperation brings with it a high probability for trouble.

I do recommend the book. He can explain these things far better than I can at this point, and he made the clear case for following one’s gut and being self possessed when traveling, walking around strange locations or even when being in a large parking lot at night.

Most perps don't want trouble, they want an easy take.

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Old 12-23-2008, 04:41 PM   #20
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Hi Ha,
I read a book last year by Gavin de Becker called The Gift of Fear.


Mr. De Becker takes the position that violence isn’t just ‘random’ and that clues and access to information which can prevent us from becoming a victim is available beforehand. He explains that caution is different than fear, fear itself is actually a gift that can save our lives, and that gut instinct is different than imagination.

When questioning victims of violence about their incident, a very high percentage will admit that they knew ‘something wasn’t right’ or that they felt strangely (felt someone was watching, had a prickly sensation down their neck or back, began to sweat, turmoil in their stomach, etc.) about ‘that place, that car, those people, that room’ or whatever before they shushed themselves up and went ahead into that situation anyway.

In other words, we 'know' but don't take our warning signs seriously.

I completely agree with you. About 5 years ago there was an article in the New Yorker about a cop with a sixth sense about people and situations that was developed well beyond the normally high quality of a working policeman's intuition. He was so good that psychologists were trying to study him to see what was going on. I may have a reference on my computer, I'll check when I get home. (I'm down at the lake now, taking care of pets.)

About the Cancun thing, I see your point. But I have associates who are working or missionaries in South America, and very unlikely targets from a wealth POV do get grabbed. Because they are available, and the cost is perceived as low. If it doesn't work out they can always kill the kidnapped person. They are always killing people anyway, so no big deal.

So it may be hard to decide this one, as various factors point in different directions. One thing I do know, we aren't ever going to get relaible official information, any more than Florida beaches are going to publicise shark sightings.

Ha
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