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Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Coci … my fish spotting dog
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Tackle Talk


Is Baja Safe?
Among the most frequently asked questions is whether traveling in Baja is safe. My short answer has been that if you are looking for trouble, it can be found. However, this year like every other year for the last decade, I have driven the entire Baja Peninsula in my trusty Roadtrek, a one-ton van conversion – alone – from border to tip and back countless times without incident.

Violent acts are not happening on the streets every day, although drug-related homicides have increased, as they have in many countries. A word of caution: it is important to be aware of your surroundings, pay attention to events around you, and stick to the tourist beaten paths.


byoctober2017
BY OCTOBER 2017, Baja California Sur’s total homicides had exceeded 560, almost all the result of drug-related violence.


Although there have been more than 1,200 additional Federal law enforcement and marines put in place to fight the increase in drug-related homicides, they haven’t been able to curb the violence within the cartels, although they have managed to influence its containment within the cartels.


Remarkably, in the time frame of the current drug war, only two foreigners have been killed in unrelated incidents or drug disputes.


The bloodiest two years in Tijuana’s history were quite some time ago, 2009 with 1,118 homicides and 2010 with 1,256. The city has already broken the record for the most murders in a year – more than 1,000 so far – a milestone reported on August 21. Most of these murders were associated with rival cartels disputing over territory.


At the other end of the Baja Peninsula in 2014, Baja California Sur was relatively free of drug-related violence that had made headlines in other parts of Mexico. From January to July of 2014 there were only 27 homicides in the entire state, making it one of the safest states in Mexico.


But, by the end of 2014 that had changed and Baja California Sur accounted for 92 drug-related homicides. That number nearly doubled in 2015, rising to 177 as the drug cartels battled for territory control that continued into 2016. The death toll continued to climb to a disturbing record of 247 murders, including several “public” incidents and civic assassinations.


By October 2017, Baja California Sur’s total homicides had exceeded 560, almost all the result of drug-related violence. The most affected cities have been La Paz and San Jose del Cabo with Cabo San Lucas not far behind. However, every city has been affected, including Mulege, Guerrero Negro, Loreto, Cerritos, Pescadero, Constitución and the Pacific region of Comondu.


Sensational headlines were emblazoned in local, national and international press resulting in the addition of the 200 Federal Police to augment La Paz and Cabo San Lucas law enforcement.


But the battle became more “public” in La Paz with the assassination of a police commandant, the head of the Human Rights Commission and three police officers on the La Paz Malecon in front of many residents and visitors the last few months of this year.


In late November, the military assumed command of both the Los Cabos and the La Paz police forces to coordinate counter measures. Unlike other cities on the peninsula, the command was not assumed for corruption, but rather to more efficiently approach the problem with more experienced personnel.


What has affected foreign visitors living in BCS is the increase of car theft, robberies and even in some cases virtual kidnapping.


Baja California Sur has the fourth fastest growing economy in Mexico and it is almost entirely a result of increased tourism, both national and international. All three major airports in BCS have seen significant increases in travelers in the past three years. The head of the Los Cabos Hotel Association recently called the cancelations resulting from the news, "Just a bump in the road."


You can make your voice heard by simply calling your Baja travel reservation office and asking, "What is your policy on reservation cancelations due to the increased violence in the state?" The major chains and both the La Paz and Los Cabos travel associations track this data and hopefully they will appreciate your input.


Traveling anywhere is not without risks. Even in the United States or a foreign country, travel itself demands a healthy dose of vigilance and caution… now more than ever, regardless of how safe a destination seems to be. It's not about being afraid, it's about being aware.


Tourism remains the primary source of income for many in the state of Baja Sur and removing that would only make the criminal element even stronger, and Mexico is doing everything possible to ensure the safety of its visitors. So, despite the dangers, travel in Baja California is still considered to be fairly safe and visitors should feel welcome in the area.


As 2018 unfolds, I will be returning to Baja California for all the reasons that have lured me there time after time over the years: The remote deserts, the Sea of Cortez, the beaches, the fishing, old and new friends. They all are part of my Baja, and I refuse to give them up. So I hope to see you once again in my Baja travels.


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