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How Safe is Travel in Mexico?

With all the reports of the drug violence in Mexico, some may be wondering just how safe the country is for visitors. Tijuana is especially under scrutiny as the region has been the center of much drug cartel warfare. The San Diego Reader recently investigated the violence levels to gauge the climate.

"Tijuana is about as dangerous as Baltimore or Detroit; and much less dangerous than New Orleans," said Charles Pope, interim director of the Trans-Border Institute at USD, "but I don't think you get that perspective from the news."

On January 7, Pope spoke to 54 members of the Rancho Bernardo Rotary Club, stressing that there are five to six homicides per 100,000 people in San Diego, 42 in Baltimore, 46 in Detroit and 88 in New Orleans. By comparison, Tijuana has only 46. (Pope did note the high rates in New Orleans are a result of violence following the Katrina disaster.)

"I don't want to diminish the fact that there is a very, very serious problem in Mexico," he said, “(but) in my own, personal opinion, I don't think it's as bad as we're hearing about. I think it's a bit over-sensationalized in the media. I think it needs to be put in perspective. For one thing, most of the violence is happening in concentrated areas--Baja California, Sinora and the pacific states.”

Pope noted that Mexican drug trafficking proliferated in the 1980s when the United States began targeting the Caribbean drug trade. Through the 1990s, roughly 50 percent of the cocaine found in the U.S. came from Mexico. By 2004, the number had risen to 94 percent.

Pope resents the characterization that Mexico as a whole is a very dangerous place. He highlighted that the drug violence is only happening in certain states and there are some states where nothing is happening at all.

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