If you are a regular in the Mexican blogosphere, you know that Rivergirl wrote of this topic today and Gabatcha shared her thoughts on this matter yesterday. We were all set off by a recent article found on Associated Content written by Julia Bodeeb that is inaccurate and obviously written without any real knowledge of what is happening in Mexico. The article was posted on a Cancun information forum and we soon discovered that attempting to comment on her piece was futile. Several of us have posted comments that dispute her statement that tourists should avoid Cancun, we've asked her for evidence that Cancun is unsafe for tourists and she is consistently (and rapidly) deleting the comments that disagree with her blatant lies and misinformation. One poster contacted the writer directly to challenge her about deleting comments and she replied with a delightfully courteous "You blow". You would think that a professional "journalist" would be able to engage in debate and support her arguments, but apparently she has nothing to back up her claims that tourists are in danger in Cancun. Why? Because they are not.
Mexico is currently involved in a war on drugs, much more of a war than the United States has ever fought (don't get me started on why the cartels are so successful with their American customer base and American guns). The number of people killed in this battle is huge, President Calderon this week admitted that the number is over 6000 for 2008. BUT. The lives that have been lost are almost all members of the drug cartels and the forces trying to fight them and most of the deaths have occurred in towns that border the US, not in the south. Innocent victims are a very, very small percentage of the deaths. The media loves to write scare pieces and are quick to shout that an American (or Canadian or Brit) was killed in Mexico, but the majority of the time it is quickly discovered that the victims were somehow involved with the cartels and got themselves involved in shady dealings. There have been NO tourists killed in Cancun in random violence or anything related to the war on drugs. The events that are making the news take place far from the hotel zone and tourist areas. The attacks are directed and precise, not gunfights in the streets. The target is chosen because somehow they have interfered with the workings of the cartels, they are abducted after being followed and watched and then taken to a location outside of the city. This in no way affects innocent tourists. As Rivergirl pointed out in her article, Americans and tourists in general help the cartels to some degree, they are good cover and they are their main customers, they don't want to jeopardize that relationship anymore than the tourist bureau does. They've got just as much to lose. Tourists mean money for everyone, the government, the locals who live here and the cartels too. No one here wants to see a tourist get hurt.
So, is Cancun safe for tourists? Yes. Crime happens here, sure, pick pockets, thefts from hotel rooms, etc, etc, but violent crime against tourists, no. The type of crime that happens here occurs in every city around the world, tourist attraction or not. Use your common sense and street smarts and you'll be fine. I would venture to say that Cancun is safer than most big cities around the world, I don't feel any different here than I did in Toronto or New York or Los Angeles. In fact, I probably feel safer. I am far from naive, I read the local and national Mexican papers daily so I know exactly what is going on, but it does not fill me with fear. I don't associate with the bad guys, nor do I try to impede what they are doing, I don't have any money nor do I involve myself with dangerous activities. I live my life the same way I did in Toronto, eyes open, head up and aware of my surroundings. If I felt that tourists were in any way in danger, I would shout it from the rooftops. I have no interest in lying about this, people's safety is of far greater concern to me than the economy of the city of Cancun. If I felt that Cancun was THAT dangerous, I certainly wouldn't continue to live her with my small child.
The battle now is against the fear mongers and "journalists" that have their own agendas and misinformed opinions. Speak out, share your thoughts! Bloggers, tell us about security in your town and your thoughts on the anti-Mexico media. Belize and Honduras and Chile and France and Canada and the US, wherever you may be, how secure are tourists in your neck of the woods and how does the media portray your location?
**please see post from March 3, 2009 "Resort Towns Safe in Mexico" for more