This week, Mexico’s reputation as a safe tourist destination was challenged once more following the kidnapping and murder of two U.S. citizens who had just crossed the border in Matamoros.
The grave incident is the first of its kind to make headlines in months, but it’s been enough for Mexico to come under the scrutiny of the U.S. media – yet again.
As the situation gets out of hand, with Texan authorities going as far as advising citizens not to travel to Mexico as it is ‘too dangerous‘, the Mexican President has decided to step in and address Americans himself, claiming Mexico is ‘safer’ than the United States.
This is not the first time the local Government has criticized the media’s tone when reporting crime in Mexico, but it seems as if things have reached a tipping point:
What Happened Exactly?
On March 3, four South Carolinians entered Mexico via land at the Matamoros checkpoint in the state of Tamaulipas.
Matamoros is a popular destination for medical tourism, but it is also a border town plagued by violence and mysterious disappearances.
It is where Mark Kilroy was abducted and killed in 1989, and numerous other violent crimes took place.
Only hours after crossing the border, their van was intercepted by attackers wearing protective vests, who went on to fire at the vehicle and kidnap them.
Mexican forces were able to rescue Eric Williams and Washington McGee alive, but their friends Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown were found dead in a roadside shack on a dirt track leading to Playa Bagdad.
The captors are believed to be connected to a local gang that operates in the area and may have mistaken the Americans for their rivals.
It is worth noting investigations are still ongoing, but much like Kilroy’s gruesome murder in the eighties, this violent abduction has soured diplomatic relations between the United States and Mexico.
Mexico And The U.S. Enter New Diplomatic Feud
The U.S. Department of State promptly renewed its travel warning advising Americans to avoid ‘certain parts’ of Mexico, including Tamaulipas, where ‘violent crime – such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery – is widespread and common‘.
Canada joined in and issued its own warning, reminding citizens that levels of crime are ‘high‘ throughout Mexico.
Republicans in the States took a step further and called for military intervention into Mexico’s gang activity, with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. stating that if Mexico ‘does not get tougher’ and accept military aid, then it is an ‘enemy’ of the United States.
Responding to the serious allegations, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, claimed his country is ‘safer’ than the U.S. and that ‘there is no problem with traveling safely around Mexico’.
Obrador denounced an ‘anti-Mexico’ campaign by Conservative American politicians and threatened to urge Mexican Americans not to vote Republican should the criticism continue.
He went on to affirm that both American tourists and expats living in Mexico are ‘well aware’ of how safe the country is. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be making the move South in record numbers.
Indeed, Mexico has recently been named the best country for Americans moving abroad in a report published by InterNations.
Offering further comments, AMLO asserted that, were the U.S. warnings to be followed strictly, Americans would only be able to travel to two states in Mexico: Campeche and Yucatan, as they are the only ones listed as Level 1, or ‘safe’ destinations.
‘So, what is happening? Why the paranoia?‘, he retorted when questioned about the alleged security crisis during a press conference.
AMLO Accuses U.S. Politicians Of Being ‘Anti-Mexico’
Answering the repressive remarks by U.S. politicians, Obrador concluded that ‘this is a campaign against Mexico by Conservative politicians of the United States who do not want the country to continue transforming for the good of Mexicans‘.
Last year, a record number of international tourists vacationed in Mexico, bringing in tourist dollars and helping accelerate development.
30 million were recorded in Cancun alone, while several other tourism hubs, both in the sunny Yucatan Peninsula and beyond, set new arrival records, and security standards have been surprisingly high.
Between January and September 2022, only one kidnapping case was reported in Quintana Roo, the number one destination for Americans going South of the border.
Security efforts were also ramped up, with the Marines, the National Guard, and local police deployed to beach areas and tourist zones in order to ensure public order.
Mexico has been spending millions of dollars on the modernization of the country and strengthening of security, so it’s no surprise AMLO is clapping back hard at critics.
Is Mexico Actually Safer Than The United States?
Mexico’s tourist cities are very safe for American visitors.
The likes of Cancun, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos, only to name a few, all enjoy a low level of crime and extensive surveillance, and despite the occasional incidents, which are to be expected as these are very populous cities, the vast majority of visits to Mexico are trouble-free.
According to data shared by SECTUR, the Mexican Secretary of Tourism, 66 million international visitors arrived in the country in 2022, a sizeable percentage of those being Americans looking for some sun and sand.
Out of tens of millions, only 25 U.S. nationals were killed in Mexico last year, the lowest figure in about two decades.
With that being said, Mexico’s murder rate continues to be around four times higher than the U.S. average, at 28 for every 100,000 people (as verified by the World Bank).
Nevertheless, the national average often does not reflect the reality on the ground in many cities, particularly places like St. Louis (Missouri), where the cost of crime per capita is exceedingly high.
The same applies to America’s southern neighbor: some crime hotspots and non-touristy border zones may lead to an ‘inflation’ of the crime rate, but in actuality, any of the major cities and tourist destinations in Mexico are just as safe as large metropolises and urban centers in the U.S. — and unlike the U.S., where crime and gun violence continues to surge, Mexico’s homicide rate fell by about 7% in 2022.
Of course, there are parts of Mexico that can be quite dangerous, and Americans should indeed avoid them, but there are also others where security barriers are close to impenetrable, and crime rates are low — at times, much lower than the U.S. average.
Overall, Mexico is comparatively safe for tourism as long as you avoid no-go zones and follow safety advice where needed.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com