Friday, February 10, 2012

No More Road Trips, Implies US Travel Warning to Mexic

The US State Department updated its travel warning to Mexico, warning against “non-essential” travel to virtually all of Mexico’s northern border states: Tamaulipas, Sinaloa, Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Durango.

The LA Times notes that the revised warning is more specific than the one issued in April 2011, offering information on drug violence on a city-by-city and state-by-state basis. This is most likely in response to concerns from Mexican authorities about declining tourism from the US, the newspaper concludes. Northern Baja California, for example, is labeled a place where travelers “should exercise extreme caution,” while south Baja California (home to tourist hotspot Cabo San Lucas) has “no advisory in effect.”

There are other distinctions that are even more specific. Travel to the state of Nuevo Leon is discouraged, except for capital Monterrey, even though US government employees are not permitted to keep their children inside the city. The warning goes on to say that US personnel are also not allowed to visit “gambling establishments,” nor travel outside the city past midnight.

Other parts of the warning go so far to identify specific highways which should not be used. The Washington Post observes that in accordance with the new warning, “a visitor who wants to drive from the United States to Mexico City has no viable route that would be in accord with the U.S. guidelines.”

The level of detail in the new warning is particularly interesting, considering that Mexico reported breaking tourism records last year, with visitors from the US increasing by 10 percent.

News Briefs

  • The New York Times with an update on the pending police strike in Bahia state, Brazil, a little over a week away from Carnival. The article notes that the strike calls attention to the difference in pay and prestige that the military police receive, versus the civil police. Both forces are on strike in Bahia. And according to cell phone conversations recorded by “intelligence officials,” some of the organizers behind the strike are reportedly planning to commit acts of vandalism in order to strengthen their negotiating position, then expand the strike to Brazil’s richest states, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
  • The New York Times analyzes what Wednesday’s record seizure of 15 tons of methaphetamine means about drug production dynamics in Mexico. David Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego, told the newspaper that if the product belonged to the Sinaloa Cartel, the largest exporter of meth from Mexico to the US, the 15-ton stockpile of cocaine indicates, “they are clearly operating at a volume they were not able to do 5 or 10 years ago.” Eric Olson from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars notes that the size of the seizure should be kept in perspective, as, “Seizures, even huge ones, don’t generally change the demand for the drug in the long run.” The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, quotes a UNODC official who argues that the Mexican criminal organizations are now producing more meth than they can properly sell inside the US.
  • Residents complain that a foreign coal mining company will destroy the environment in their community, and that the coal exported abroad represents a theft of the country’s natural resources. Sounds like a common social conflict seen in Latin America, except for the countries involved: the small town of Eagle Pass, Texas, versus a Mexican mining company, Dos Republicas Coal Partnership. The New York Times reports that the Eagle Pass residents are “concerned about having a Mexican company that is held to lower standards operate in Texas. Adding salt to their wounds is the fact that the coal, considered to be of too low quality to be burned in the United States, will be shipped to Mexico.”
  • The AP reports that Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Pablo Perez encouraged public employees to vote in Sunday’s primary elections, as the opposition coalition claims that the government has pressured this interest group not to group. The AP notes that there is no evidence for this assertion. The Economist has its own analysis of what may happen come Sunday’s primaries, asserting that the opposition coalition is far more organized now than it has been in years. The magazine predicts a victory for front-runner Henrique Capriles, but notes that he “cannot match the charisma of Mr. Chavez.”
  • Colombia Reports on the arrest warrant issued for ex-President Alvaro Uribe’s peace comissioner, Luis Carlos Restrepo. Restrepo is under investigation for allegedly coordinating the demobilization of a fake FARC front in 2006. The 63 members of the fake front later testified that they were posing as rebels, and were in fact recruited by a former FARC fighter who paid them about $250 each for participating. Restrepo is the third of Uribe’s former close associates to face criminal charges.
  • Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was discharged from a public hospital and returned to prison, reports Reuters.
  • Mexican marines found 15 bodies in a mass grave in Veracruz, the BBC reports. Veracruz saw an explosion of violence last year, with homicides increasing three fold in comparison to 2010.