A 68-year-old Penticton, BC, man, Mike DiLorenzo, was shot in Mazatlán on January 16 while vacationing in this Pacific coast resort town. According to media reports, he and his wife were coming out of a pharmacy when killers in a van drove by, blew the head off a man riding a motorcycle, and left Mr. DiLorenzo behind as “collateral damage.”
Fortunately, Mr. DiLorenzo survived. In the meantime, tourism officials in the state of Sinaloa rushed to their microphones to explain that they would pay for repatriating him to BC for recovery and that Mazatlán remained one of the safest places in Mexico for tourists. That’s not saying much considering the carnage that’s going on throughout the country.
The attack that caught Mr. DiLorenzo in its wake occurred less than two weeks after the grisly discovery of 38 bodies executed by drug thugs in and around Acapulco—15 of them decapitated.
Tourism officials refer to these incidents as isolated and restricted to warring drug “families,” but death by accident or by deliberation leaves you just as dead.
The national tally is staggering: almost 13,000 murders and drive-by shootings just last year, 30,000 in the last four years throughout Mexico. And these numbers include hundreds of innocent bystanders: tourists, schoolchildren, businesspeople, family groups caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. AK-47s, the weapon of choice for hit men, cut a wide swath. Ask Mr. DiLorenzo. It’s true that tourists are still flocking to Acapulco and other Mexican tourist centres, thanks to cheap rates. But ask yourself why they’re so cheap. If the value of your life equates to a 20 per cent savings off regular hotel tariffs, the use of reason is irrelevant.
Thanks primarily to the British press and a few newspapers in the American Southwest, we can get reliable news about the expanding range of drug-related violence now affecting almost all parts of Mexico. You would never know it by the Canadian media, which for the most part continues to characterize the drug wars as isolated events limited to a couple of border towns. In the meantime, their travel sections are flush with advertisements touting cheap vacations in Mexico for the coming March break.
Neither are the Canadian government’s Travel Alerts (which you can find on our Travel Links page) doing a good job of warning travellers about specific areas of risk in Mexico. They’re on the mark warning about riots in Tunisia and floods in Australia—but shootings in Mexico don’t seem to get on their radar screen.
The US government’s Travel Warnings are a little more up to date about Mexico, but I find the most reliable and timely warnings about that beleaguered country, or any other place on the globe, are issued by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). They are current, unvarnished, factual, and well-written (which means free of bureaucratic jargon), and they’re my first choice when I want to know what’s going on where. The British press is also doing a creditable job of putting out objective information on the Mexican drug wars. (You can access UK and US Travel Warnings from our Travel Links page as well.)
My greatest fear is that someday soon—maybe this winter, or next—dozens of innocent Canadian or American tourists will be caught in the vortex of this violence. Then the cry will go up, most loudly from the media: “Why didn’t somebody tell us?” They wouldn’t need to be told if they were doing their job.