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Baja California

Baja California still safe for tourists, travel club exec says  Nov 25, 2008

Surfers, fishermen, hunters, golfers or anyone else monitoring the high level of drug-related violence in northern Baja California must be wondering what I'm wondering: When will cartel members, who are frenetically fighting among themselves, kill each other off and end the savage brutality?

Answer: Not as long as there is demand for their product in the United States.

Latest casualty report, in a 24-hour spree over the weekend: 12 dead, including two decapitated bodies, whose heads were found nearby in plastic bags. Municipal police said six of the killings were in Tijuana, three were in Rosarito and three were in Ensenada.

So reports the Latin American Herald Tribune.

There've been Outposts reader comments regarding the number of people murdered this year by groups linked to cartels in Mexico. The Mexico City daily El Universal places the number at about 4,500.

But if there's a silver lining for tourists, it's that they're not being targeted. I called Hugh Kramer, president of Discover Baja, today as he was preparing to drive from San Diego to his family's condo at La Jolla del Mar just south of Rosarito.

"I feel as safe once I get south of the border as I do north of the border," said Kramer, whose travel club provides insurance and other services for Baja travelers.

Kramer, in fact, says he feels safer now than he did "in the past few years" because Mexico has bolstered law enforcement efforts, rooted out corrupt cops, and established tourist police forces in Tijuana and the Rosarito Beach district "that are trained especially to deal with tourist issues."

Tourists, Kramer says, "are basically treated like royalty down there now, because the area has become so economically depressed, so the government is doing basically everything it can to welcome tourists and give them a sense that they are safe."

They're reasonably safe, that is, if they stay within tourist zones, avoid driving at night and exercise the same common sense they exercise while traveling anywhere.

Still, it's a tough sell. Many Discover Baja clients are die-hard Baja lovers who typically drive straight through Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada en route to points south, well beyond the cartel war zones.

That explains why business at Discover Baja is down only about 20% compared to last year.

Business south of the border has been much harder hit and tourism is suffering in part, Kramer says, because of sensational media reports regarding, as he jokingly says, "the decapitated bodies and heads rolling across the dance floor with nobody out there dancing."

But the violence is real, and although Kramer considers Baja California to be safe, his group will not try to convince those who are wavering to go there. That decision is up to them, "because you can get blown away anywhere. Even San Diego."

Baja California still safe for tourists, travel club exec says
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