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Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante and Baja California Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán lamented the U.S. travel warning for Mexico issued Tuesday, which urged Americans to exercise caution if they visit Baja California. On Wednesday, anchorwoman Claudia Rodriguez of San Diego's Univision Channel 17 news incorrectly said the "blacklist" recommended that Americans not travel to Baja California, and Tijuana business official Mario Escobedo appeared to repeat the falsehood that the warning is a conspiracy to keep tourist dollars in the United States and out of Mexico. On Thursday, Frontera incorrectly reported that the warning told Americans not to visit Baja California. Travel warning table.
While the U.S. warning did not suggest that Americans put off non-essential visits to Baja California, as it did for travel to 15 other Mexican states, it did urge visitors to Baja California to "exercise caution ... particularly at night." The warning mentioned that 532 murders had taken place in Mexicali and Tijuana during a one-year period ending July 2012, while noting that those slayings generally had to do with organized crime.
The mention of Baja California in the travel warning was strikingly similar to one the State Department issued in February. It was unclear whether Bustamante, Osuna Millán, business officials and the media were just reacting to reports of the warning, or had actually read it. Officials and the media in the past have appeared not to have bothered to actually read the text of the warning. Earlier this year, Bustamante appeared to have expressed pride that the February warning did not recommend that Americans defer non-essential travel to Baja California. This time, he incorrectly said the United States was recommending that Americans not visit Baja California. Story, El Mexicano (PDF).
Frontera newspaper quoted Bustamante as saying that the warning does not fit a changed Baja California crime situation, noting that murders dropped 54% from 2010 to 2012, kidnappings were down 81%, vehicle theft was down 34%, and that robberies of businesses were down 61%. The February travel warning said 34 Americans had been killed in the state during the previous year; the new warning says 25 Americans were killed in the state for the yearlong period ending July 2012. The warning unfortunately did not break down those slayings, most of which apparently were related to organized crime and likely involved Mexican-Americans; it is quite possible that none of the killings of Americans involved tourism. The text of the Nov. 20 warning. Telemundo Channel 33, owned by the same company that runs Univision Channel 17, at least showed on its newscast the State Department webpage with the warning.
Frontera quoted Osuna as saying that the alert was unjust and that 388 fugitives had been arrested by municipal police and returned to the United States.
Tijuana business official Mario Escobedo appeared to repeat a canard he has mentioned before, namely that the warning is part of a conspiracy to keep U.S. tourist money in the United States and prevent it from being spent in Mexico. He told Univision that warning appeared to be following "U.S. interests." Previously he linked the conspiracy to U.S. unemployment. Escobedo, head of the Business Coordination Council, also announced Wednesday that he will seek the Institutional Revolutionary Party nomination for mayor of Tijuana next year. The head of Tijuana's social development agency, David Saúl Guakil, had announced his candidacy on Tuesday.
Media in the Tijuana region reported that officials were demanding that a correction be made to the warning. It was unclear what such a correction would be, however. Frontera newspaper reported Thursday that Bustamante was putting together a report to be presented to Homeland Security official Alan Bersin. Story, Frontera (PDF).
The U.S. travel warning reads: "You should exercise caution in the northern state of Baja California, particularly at night. For the one-year period ending July 2012, the number of murders in Mexicali increased by 43%, from 127 to 181, over the preceding year. The number of murders in the city of Tijuana was 351 for the same period. In the majority of these cases, the killings appeared to be related to narcotics trafficking. Targeted TCO assassinations continue to take place in Baja California. Turf battles between criminal groups resulted in assassinations in areas of Tijuana frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured, have occurred during daylight hours. Twenty-five U.S. citizens were the victims of homicide in the state in the 12-month period ending July 2012."
|Mexican states where U.S. urges travelers to take precautions (4)||Defer non-essential travel?||Are there any specific locations in state where caution is encouraged?|
|Baja California||No||Caution is urged in state, particularly at night|
|Mexico state||No||Caution is urged in Coacalco, Ecatepec, Nezahualcoyotl, La Paz, Valle del Chalco Solidaridad, Chalco, and Ixtapaluca|
|Morelos||No||Caution is urged in state|
|Veracruz||No||Caution is urged in state|
|Mexican states where U.S. recommends that people defer non-essential travel (15)||Defer non-essential travel?||Is there any place or places in state where it is OK to travel?||If it is OK to travel to certain locations, should visitors exercise caution in those locations?|
|Aguascalientes||Yes||Most areas away from border with Zacatecas|
|Colima||Yes, with exceptions||Most areas away from border with Michoacán, including Manzanillo||Exercise caution at night outside cities|
|Guerrero||Yes, with exceptions||Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa and some regions of state||Exercise caution and stay within tourist areas in Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and Ixtapa; flying in to coastal cities is recommended|
|Jalisco||Yes, with exceptions||Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta and most areas away from borders with Michoacán and Zacatecas||Caution urged when traveling at night outside cities|
|Michoacán||Yes, with exceptions||Morelia, Lázaro Cárdenas||Caution urged in Morelia and Lázaro Cárdenas|
|Nayarit||Yes, with exceptions||southern portion of state, Riviera Nayarit|
|Nuevo León||Yes, with exception||Monterrey||Caution is urged in Monterrey|
|San Luis Potosí||Yes, with exception||San Luis Potosí (capital city)||Caution is urged in the capital|
|Sinaloa||Yes, with exception||Mazatlán||Caution is urged in Mazatlán, particularly late at night and in the early morning|
|Sonora||Yes, with exceptions||Numerous exceptions, such as San Carlos and Puerto Peñasco||In Puerto Peñasco, "maintain a high level of vigilance"; travel on main roads only during daylight hours|
|Zacatecas||Yes, with exception||Zacatecas (capital city)||Caution is urged in the capital|
|Mexican entities (13) where no travel advisory is in effect: Baja California Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Tlaxcala, Yucatán|
Tijuana's El Mexicano newspaper had three major front-page stories dealing with crime on Wednesday. One had Gen. Gilberto Landeros saying that while crime was down 25% in Tijuana, the battle between rival drug gangs could heat up again. A second story also said the U.S. Treasury Department had issued a blacklist of three individuals and five entities in Tijuana that provide meth precursors under the Kingpin Act. A third story had a cattleman escaping a kidnapping. Stories, El Mexicano (PDF). Jumps. The jump page included a story that for economic reasons, gasoline use is being curtailed for state police. On Page 15, the paper said there had been 3,699 homicides from November 2007 to September 2012.
The Treasury Department Kingpin Act press release. Named as specially designated narcotics traffickers were Luis Gerardo Ibarra Cardona, his father, José Gerardo Ibarra Favila, mother, Mayela Cardona Martínez, brother, Carlos Jesus Ivan Ibarra Cardona, and uncle, Pedro Cardona Martínez. The press release said "the network operates three distributor companies, Distribuidora Germay S.A. de C.V., Distribuidora Germay de Sonora, S.A. DE C.V., and Comercializadora Cacho S.A. de C.V."
In the past, when travel warnings have been issued, the U.S. consul in Tijuana has belatedly acted to correct the record when false information is published. One wonders why the consulate is not out front and center when the warning is issued to help the media and Mexican officials get the story straighter, instead of having to play catchup. While this warning occurrred as the Thanksgiving holiday approached and the consulate has a new consul, surely there is some U.S. official that could have helped prevent this from becoming a circus again.