The recent execution-style shootings of two Canadians in a vacation rental condo in Puerto Vallarta show that Mexico is becoming an ever-more-dangerous place. Winter vacationers considering travel to this country need to realize these killings happened in a prime tourist location—not some remote, northern, border-smuggling area.
True, the victims were alleged to have been part of a British Columbia-based drug smuggling operation and, according to media, may have been targeted for past dealings. But third parties very often get caught up these kinds of events and it makes little difference to paid assassins whether innocent people get in the way. In just the past year we have seen similar shootouts in other tourist locations—Cancun, Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and Cabo San Lucas, in addition to Puerto Vallarta.
The drug trade has become such a factor in Mexico’s economy, culture, legal system, and now tourism that it threatens the very structure of the country. Governments are virtually impotent in controlling the trade and the violence that goes with it, and in some areas they are complicit in its expansion. It has become so bad that the Mexican government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on combating the bad news that comes out of this activity almost daily these days. Add the swine flu outbreak that occurred earlier this year to those concerns and it’s easy to see why Mexico’s tourism industry is in panic mode.
Certainly there are hundreds of thousands of Canadians and Americans who will continue to downplay this surge of violence, reasoning that over many years they have never felt threatened while vacationing in Mexico. That’s irrelevant. Times are different now, and as drug-related activities close in on what were formerly safe enclaves for expats and tourists, it will only take one quick outburst to visit real tragedy on the innocent. To drug gangs and the thugs they hire, the killing of innocent tourists is just collateral damage.