Monday, January 13, 2014

México: US Department of State Updated Travel Warning Does Not Reflect the Whole Story

COMMENT: Effective January 9, 2014, the US Department of State updated its travel warning re: the prevailing and substantial criminal threat in México, yet please be advised that the number of US citizens reported to the US Department of State as having been murdered in México in 2012 was 71 and 81 in 2013. That adds up to 152 murdered Americans in one country in a two-year period.

Below is the entire text of the January 9 travel warning:

Needless to say, I don't want to rain on the parade of any of our readers, but 152 murders in a two-year period does sound a bit excessive and alarming.

Now, if 152 Americans were murdered in 2012 and 2013, why has the Department not shared with you the armed robberies, assaults, armed carjackings, rapes, sexual assaults and stolen cars?

Our readers should also know that I have worked extensively in México over a roughly 20-year period, mostly as a security consultant after I retired from the US Department of State as a Regional Security Officer (RSO) and special agent.

For our Canadian neighbors to the north, given the dramatic difference in our respective populations, Canadian families have had their grief as well as demonstrated by the below link:

Returning from México incident-free boils down to several key ingredients:

1. Subscribe to international medical treatment and medical evacuation coverage before you leave home, as you could become a crime victim while there and need medical treatment;

Particularly in developing countries such as México, medical providers may demand payment in advance before treatment, thus the importance of having international insurance;

2. If your appropriate foreign affairs agency enables you to register your travel itinerary on-line, do so, as registration confirms that you're in the country of your destination, they know how to reach you and in the event of a family emergency back home, they can contact you;

3. Never carry more than $100 in cash;

4. Call your embassy or consulate in México and get the phone numbers of two reputable radio-controlled taxi services as you DON'T want to hail taxis in México;

5. Never walk at night; always take taxis;

6. NEVER use street-installed ATMs; they're a magnet for criminals;

7. In México, most criminals are armed and will not hesitate in killing you. NEVER resist an armed robbery if you want to live another day. No property you have is worth your life;

8. Stay away from seedy bars; they're nothing but trouble;

9. Never carry your passport, credit cards or more than $100 in cash. Stay at a "good" hotel that has a secure two-key safe deposit box system and place your credit cards, airline ticket, passport and cash greater than $100 in it. Make a photocopy of your passport photo page and your entry stamp into México and carry that for identification. If you have contacts with local police, something to be avoided, say as little as possible and move on;

10. NEVER, EVER use in-room safes. They all have a "back-door" for employees;

11. If you can avoid it, DON'T drive in México! You place yourself at risk of having a close encounter with Mexican police. Not good;

12. Be back at your hotel by 2200 hours. After that, criminals flood the streets looking for victims;

13. Avoid bars where you're likely to be taken advantage of and where you could have a close encounter with local cops;

14. Be wary of anyone preparing a drink for you! "Date-rape" are commonly used throughout México to "roll" foreigners; and

15. Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation so you can stay focused on not getting into a bad situation.