May 27, 2005

Rosarito: A real threat to tourists?

By Luis Alonso Pérez

Blood has been spilled once again in Baja California. This past week, gunned down in broad daylight, was the director of public security for Rosarito, a small tourist town in Baja, a south of the border refuge where thousands of tourists will converge during the Memorial Day weekend.

Recently the United States government sent out a public media message warning American citizens that planned a visit to any city in the border states of Mexico, about the growing crime rate, reflected in violence, murders and kidnappings.

Should tourists worry about insecurity in the cities of Baja California?

Like the old saying goes: He who owes nothing, fears nothing.

On this side (Mexico) of the border, many murders are related to organized crime. There have been those killed who have tried to stop them, those who try to compete with them, but many are murdered because they used to work for them and played them wrong.

With the exception for a few isolated cases of violence against tourists, the majority of violent acts happen among community members. In the neighbor city of Tijuana, many murders are committed between rivaling cartels, with shootings in broad daylight, a situation that has alarmed the everyday citizen.

The growing crime rate in Tijuana has increased during the first four months of this year. In only 147 days, the number of bodies found exceeds 150, compared with 93 last year.

April was a record month, in 30 days 55 murders were commited. According to a report from the LA Times, Tijuana is suffering from a crime wave that’s hitting border cities hard, after comparing the 55 homicides in Tijuana in April with 36 homicides committed in Los Angeles –a city more than twice as large– during the same month.

However, Rosarito is an emerging town, with an economy that relies heavily on tourism, so tourist security is one of the local government’s top priorities.

So far there are no theories on Carlos Bowser’s (director of security of Rosarito) assassination. When he was appointed director, Bowser had promised to act with a strong hand against drug dealers. A couple of months ago, Rosarito’s mayor Antonio Macias and Carlos Bowser had both received death threats, after heading a one ton marijuana decommission, probably by members of the affected drug cartel.

It’s tough to speculate on the motives of his assassination, however murders to public servants isn’t new to border towns, what has happened is that it has become considerably worse.

If you are thinking of spending Memorial Day Weekend south of the border, we recommend the following: Keep away from suspicious places and people; don’t begin a fight in clubs or in the street; remember that the use and possession of drugs is illegal, but mostly we ask you to remember that your are visiting a different country, with different rules and traditions.

If you wish to know more about Baja tourist sites and recommendations for travelers visit the web page www.discoverbajacalifornia.com

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