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Old 02-02-2010, 10:29 AM   #21
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NW-Bound, you wouldn't be involved in the Phoenix kidnappings unless you were a member or associated with a member of one of the drug cartels. Many drug dealers have their families living in Phoenix while they do their business in their particular area of Mexico. They aren't kidnapping just any old person off the street, so I would say you are safe.
I knew a professional gambler in Houston whose family lived on the East Coast for the same reason. I think this is a pretty common practice in the underworld.

Yes, there are many areas of Mexico that are still safe. But would I, American gringo, know where they are vs. the dangerous areas? Silly me...but I have no desire to be eating dinner with bullets flying around me. I guess if I were there already and knew the territory, it would seem less frightening than it does while I sit in my home in the Midwest safe from flying bullets.
And Lake Chapala, an American enclave, is probably not a cartel area is my guess, so it should be pretty safe there.

The average gringo are not the Kaderlis' who go in and out of Mexico all the time, and have a really thorough knowledge of how the country works. I don't have their extensive knowledge of the country as probably most of us don't. I'd trust their judgment, tho, as they are extremely knowledgeable about Mexico.
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Old 02-02-2010, 11:12 AM   #22
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Check out the latest State Department Travel Alerts or Travel Warnings on wherever you are going, or the country summaries if no Alert/Warning has been published.

Here is the link to the Mexico Travel Alert from 8/20/2009:

Mexico - Security Travel Alert

They mainly focus on the dangerous conditions in the border regions. Noted exceptions are Michoacan and Durango which are in the southwest and north-central areas of Mexico, respectively.

The general country specific page also mentions politically motivated sporadic violence in Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca. Oaxaca and Guerrero are frequented by tourists, but it doesn't really say anything about avoiding those areas in the south/southwest of Mexico in the State Dept Travel Alert. Not up to date on my Mexican Armed Insurrection history, but for the longest time the Zapatistas were an insurgent force primarily in Chiapas that would fire off rounds every once in a while, maybe kidnap or kill some folks, assassinate a politician or two, etc. I imagine some anti-government sentiment remains and may be the cause for the politically motivated violence.

For the most part, the "nice" touristy beachy parts of the country remain unblemished. Most of Baja/Baja Sur, all of Cancun/Cozumel/yucatan peninsula. Most of the Pacific resort destinations are good (excepting Mazatlan in Sinaloa state which was listed as "high crime" along with Mexico City and Acapulco). Do your research before you go and make sure the areas you are traveling in are not an active war zone. Petty crime, muggings, etc are going to happen wherever you visit (stateside or abroad).
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Old 02-02-2010, 11:24 AM   #23
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For the most part, the "nice" touristy beachy parts of the country remain unblemished. Most of Baja/Baja Sur, all of Cancun/Cozumel/yucatan peninsula. Most of the Pacific resort destinations are good (excepting Mazatlan in Sinaloa state which was listed as "high crime" along with Mexico City and Acapulco).
This is no doubt good advice, but it does mean that you accept a plastic, packaged and controlled experience. For many of us, big deal, not that different for the rest of our lives.

After all, it will be warm and sunny.

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Old 02-02-2010, 11:55 AM   #24
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This is no doubt good advice, but it does mean that you accept a plastic, packaged and controlled experience. For many of us, big deal, not that different for the rest of our lives.

After all, it will be warm and sunny.
Just saying most of the beach resort areas are safe. I'm saying that because they are popular with American tourists.

Much of the interior is safe as well. Plenty of places would be safe for Americans and still nice, and off the beaten path, or at the least something more than a beach resort. I'm thinking Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Lake Chapala/Ajijic, Jalapa, Puebla, Cuernavaca, etc. Plus numerous coastal areas that don't have a resort atmosphere but are still very nice destinations with a lot to offer (just not a lot of booze cruises, parasailing, all you can drink package deals, etc). I'm more personally interested in the non-beach resort destinations anyway.
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Old 02-02-2010, 11:58 AM   #25
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Fortunately we have already done quite a bit of traveling in Mexico, and we are more interested in the central american countries which apparently are much safer at present.

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Old 02-02-2010, 12:29 PM   #26
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"The general country specific page also mentions politically motivated sporadic violence in Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca."

You could take the above sentence and replace it with ""The general country specific page also mentions random and sporadic violence in Houston, New Orleans and New York City."

This doesn't stop most of you from going to these cities... so why the infatuation with irrational fears? The biggest and single most significant risk to your lives each of you perform nearly everyday multiple times... you drive your car!

Life is an adventure - go out and enjoy it!
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Old 02-02-2010, 12:47 PM   #27
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"The general country specific page also mentions politically motivated sporadic violence in Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca."

You could take the above sentence and replace it with ""The general country specific page also mentions random and sporadic violence in Houston, New Orleans and New York City."
Yes, I don't want to perpetuate fear-mongering. Walking down a city street and driving a car are dangerous activities too. Life is full of peril, but don't let fear stand in the way of life. I had not really heard of Oaxaca or Guerrero being particularly bad for tourists, and even from the State Dept's warning it sounds more like politically related violence/protests and not necessarily aimed at tourists.

In my lengthy travels down south (at the beginning of the last decade), in general I thought Mexico was rather safe vs. big city USA. The border area was shady and felt unsafe even back then (Nuevo Laredo) when we crossed into Mexico on foot.

Guns are less available down there, severe penalties are imposed if you are found with one, and they don't have the same civil liberties as we do in the US of A, hence searches happen more easily. Federal or Municipal Police with automatic assault rifles are common in some parts of the country, in the airports, subways, etc.

Edit to add: I would have no problem traveling to most of Mexico (excepting the border region) with my wife and young kids. Definitely doesn't seem any worse than traveling with them to New Orleans, NYC, Miami, Atlanta, St. Louis, etc. As with anywhere, know where you are traveling, avoid bad neighborhoods, study up on your destinations, trust your gut instinct and get out of somewhere that gives you the creeps.

After reading about New Orleans and the French Quarter a while back, the advise was basically do NOT go anywhere on foot at night down there or you stand a high chance of getting robbed, mugged, or worse. Not sure how true it is (then or now), but that certainly seems WAY more dangerous than anywhere I have been in Mexico.
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Old 02-02-2010, 01:25 PM   #28
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I had not really heard of Oaxaca or Guerrero being particularly bad for tourists, and even from the State Dept's warning it sounds more like politically related violence/protests and not necessarily aimed at tourists.
The issues in that area are the occasional uprisings/civil unrest of the Zapatistas versus the MX govt. Worthwhile being aware of it and perhaps not visiting if there is civil disobedience/protesting going on. Otherwise, enjoy!

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Old 02-02-2010, 01:50 PM   #29
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The issues in that area are the occasional uprisings/civil unrest of the Zapatistas versus the MX govt. Worthwhile being aware of it and perhaps not visiting if there is civil disobedience/protesting going on. Otherwise, enjoy!

Audrey
From a quick wikipedia read, it seems the Zapatistas have toned down since their uprising in the 1990's. Back at the turn of the century, I think it was regarded as wise to avoid Chiapas. Like Colombia, I think that attitude is starting to change now with a reduction in the violence.

I suppose if one can not communicate in Spanish it would hinder the ability to do due diligence on the ground once in Mexico. You could, for example, ask about the situation in a neighboring city when talking to hotel staff, waiters, bus station ticket clerk, police, etc before making travel arrangements to go to your destination. Or pick up a local newspaper and read the front page to see if anything is about to happen. If there are many gringos where you are going I would bet there would be English language posts on Mexico expat forums that could give you a very timely status update on the situation on the ground in your locality.
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Old 02-02-2010, 02:02 PM   #30
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I spent Xmas in Oaxaca in 2002 and enjoyed it immensely, but just a year or two later there was enough civil unrest and protest and extra govt troops in Oaxaca that I would not have returned. No matter whether tourists are targeted or not, if there are road blockages or strikes or crowds or whatever due to civil unrest or crowd control measures or some kind of military crackdown it's not much fun being a tourist in the area.

It comes and goes. You just have to be aware. It's pretty easy to be apprised of the current situation via the internet.

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Old 02-02-2010, 02:18 PM   #31
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Another data point: we were in Mexico City in 1999 IIRC during a period of months long protest/strike by college and school faculty and students against low pay or something. Didn't really impact us a lot, even though we stayed a few blocks from the Zocalo where there were many thousands protesting around the clock. Went back the following year, stayed in the same hotel, and the experience was about the same, except without the protests. No violence for the most part and extra police/military were passive, mainly serving as crowd control I guess.
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Old 02-02-2010, 03:04 PM   #32
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It seems to me that the "war on drugs" was lost a long time ago. As a result of U.S. addiction entire countries and parts of our own are owned by drug interests, most notably on our Mexican doorstep, and the U.S. taxpayers are spending $$ on a war they can no longer afford and, that has no winning strategy.

I can't imagine that we would not be more secure (at home and on Mexican holiday) and less impoverished if we legalize the majority of these drugs and control their distribution in a manner similar to alcohol. Provide free treatment.
I'm not going to dispute the security element, but how much does the abuse of legalized alcohol cost us now?

From a 2000 report (in 1998 dollars) from the Public Health Service/National Institutes of Health / National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the total cost twelve years ago was almost 185 Billion dollars. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/economic-2000/

I think we need to do some more figuring before we just blatantly say that legalizing drugs will solve all of our problems. I suspect it may be more of a case of we just shift the costs to some place else in our economy and society.
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Old 02-02-2010, 04:25 PM   #33
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I think we need to do some more figuring before we just blatantly say that legalizing drugs will solve all of our problems...
Some of my Libertarian friends believe that legalizing drugs would be the solution. I said "Yeah, wait until your own kids get stoned from PCP or meth that they can buy from a guy at the school bus stop".
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Old 02-02-2010, 05:02 PM   #34
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Some of my Libertarian friends believe that legalizing drugs would be the solution. I said "Yeah, wait until your own kids get stoned from PCP or meth that they can buy from a guy at the school bus stop".
Funny, that's pretty much the way I feel about Libertarianism. It sounds great in theory, but then you look deeper and add in the human element and you know it will never work as envisioned. No offense intended to any Libertarians here, I'm sure some of you are sane, rational and intelligent, it's just that I never met any of you in the real world. Every Libertarian I ever met in real life made me wonder why they weren't wearing their tin foil hat that day.

It's that old "unintended consequences" thing that always comes around. Amsterdam for example, with it's legalized, regulated and unionized prostitution along with sort-of-legal drug sales, possession and usage. They're backing away from that, or at least trying to cut it way back, because it was turning into a disaster. Human trafficking in women forced into prostitution, violence and a plethora of problems associated with drugs.
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A fundamental principle in economic science is that supply and price of a product affect its demand. With cannabis legally and plentifully available, its use is much higher in Amsterdam (almost 3 times more) than in the rest of the country (note: 80% of Dutch municipalities do not allow the sale of marijuana). Furthermore, in Amsterdam marijuana consumption is well above EU averages - and these figures do not count the tourists. An urban problem? Hardly so: there is no difference in the rates of marijuana use between London and the rest of the UK, or between Washington DC and the rest of the USA. Elsewhere in the world, the urban setting does not affect drug consumption rates: why should it affect Amsterdam? To conclude, the city has a health problem caused by marijuana availability, and this could get worse as cannabis becomes more potent.
UN Office on Drugs and Crime - A study tour of Amsterdam - June 2008. http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/about-...amsterdam.html

I spent most of my life making a good living regulating either illegal drugs; illegal sex acts; or legalized, regulated and taxed alcohol. There's nothing I haven't seen. And what I know is this, legalizing drugs and prostitution will not solve anything. There will be people who will not have any problems, but there will be plenty of people who will self-destruct, they'll go down blazing destroying things as they go, and all too often they'll take people down with them. Organized crime didn't get out of the alcohol business after Prohibition was repealed, speakeasies still exist right along with a lot of ostensibly "legal" bars that are doing all sorts of criminal stuff and barely concealing it.

Legalize it all you want, but the problems and the costs just get shifted a little is all that will happen.
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Old 02-02-2010, 05:25 PM   #35
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I agree with much of what you say. As long as they don't take away my booze... Even the booze, I average less than 1 drink a day. Heck, that's the only thing I have left to enjoy, as I quit smoking cigarettes 7 years ago.
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Old 02-02-2010, 05:26 PM   #36
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There is a certain added danger when one is out of one's milieu that we haven't yet discussed. Yes, New Orleans is dangerous but IMO it is many times more dangerous for a Japanese tourist than it is for someone from Chicago or Memphis, who might more easily spot some dangerous places or situations. And, it is more dangerous to them than to a native New Orleanian.

Similarly, I would think that American tourists are in a lot more danger in some places and situations in Mexico than are those who live there or who have spent much time there (whether expats or locals).
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Old 02-02-2010, 06:01 PM   #37
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There is a certain added danger when one is out of one's milieu that we haven't yet discussed. Yes, New Orleans is dangerous but IMO it is many times more dangerous for a Japanese tourist than it is for someone from Chicago or Memphis, who might more easily spot some dangerous places or situations. And, it is more dangerous to them than to a native New Orleanian.

Similarly, I would think that American tourists are in a lot more danger in some places and situations in Mexico than are those who live there or who have spent much time there (whether expats or locals).
Applause!!!

This is so frequently overlooked. I often takes years to understand a culture, even if you are very good with the language. Tourists, if they get off the tour-track, are like zebras on the periphery of their herd.

Years after I was in some situation that was tricky but worked out OK I sometimes get a flash -"Oh, that is what was going on!"

Also, I sometimes look back and think-was I really that clueless? Even today right on my home turf, it can take all day just trying to avoid being run over by the clue-bus.

Ha
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Old 02-02-2010, 10:23 PM   #38
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Another data point: we were in Mexico City in 1999 IIRC during a period of months long protest/strike by college and school faculty and students against low pay or something. Didn't really impact us a lot, even though we stayed a few blocks from the Zocalo where there were many thousands protesting around the clock. Went back the following year, stayed in the same hotel, and the experience was about the same, except without the protests. No violence for the most part and extra police/military were passive, mainly serving as crowd control I guess.
Mexico City as a destination? I assume it was due to work!

There seems to always be a strike/sit-in or something associated with Universidad Autónoma de México.

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Old 02-03-2010, 12:11 AM   #39
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I spent most of my life making a good living regulating either illegal drugs; illegal sex acts; or legalized, regulated and taxed alcohol.
Could that cause a bit of bias? One hates to have spent their life doing meaningless things (although a lot of my mega-corp career qualifies). How would your life have differed if you had spent it regulating legal drugs, legal sex acts or "legalized, regulated and taxed alcohol"? Is there a difference between those activities mentioned that are illegal and those that are not?

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There's nothing I haven't seen. And what I know is this, legalizing drugs and prostitution will not solve anything.
Maybe not, depends what 'solve anything' means, care to elaborate? It might save many tax dollars wasted by:
  • putting (and paying to keep) people in jail for "lifestyle choices"
  • not applying and collecting "sin taxes"
  • requiring a police response to "regulate" things like dealers and pimps (who, hopefully, would need other employment if these things were legalized).
The real question is: What are you trying to solve? If I have the money and the inclination to spend it on gambling, pot, hookers or religious whacko's, who are you to tell me that I can't? And why would you care?
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Old 02-03-2010, 10:30 AM   #40
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Was that not what I was saying earlier? Thanks, W2R, for getting the point! While guns are blazing in restaurants I just don't feel knowledgeable about going into foreign territory.

Leonidas, there is a huge Libertarian movement in Houston for some reason. I never encountered Libertarians in Chicago even tho I was involved in Independent Politics there. Libertarianism is great in theory...that, unfortunately, won't work in real life. But if it only could....I'd be in.
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