As if Mexico’s drug gangs weren’t bad enough, tourists now have to stay on the lookout for armed vigilantes, whose itchy trigger fingers threaten to do even more damage to the country’s reputation as a safe holiday haven.
Earlier this week two tourists from Mexico City were confronted by a group of armed and masked men in the town of Las Mesas, located on the Pacific coast.
Afraid of what could happen if they stopped, the couple sped through a roadblock and were subsequently hit by a series of shots fired by the vigilantes, who have just recently taken it upon themselves to lead a civilian crackdown on deadly drug cartels.
Turns out the unlucky tourists were just headed to the beach. Now they’re in the hospital.
With tens of thousands of murders linked to the drug cartels last year alone, it’s no wonder ordinary Mexicans have lost faith in the government’s ability to take care of the problem, but this week’s near tragedy involving a couple of hapless tourists shows how dangerous vigilantism can be.
You’d think the danger presented by thugs would hurt the Mexican tourist industry, but statistics don’t show it.
According to the nation’s tourism agency, a record number of foreign travellers visited Mexico by air in 2011. At just over 22.5 million, it was the highest number since Mexico started keeping track 30 years ago.
But even the biggest Mexico boosters must get nervous when ordinary Mexicans are being forced to take matters into their own hands by forming vigilante squads.
And, as this week’s incident involving tourists has shown, mistakes can be made and innocent people could die.
Until the government can manage to get control of its own streets, the vigilante groups will remain just another risk factor for tourists to consider when booking their next vacation.
With hundreds of millions of tourist dollars at stake along with the livelihoods of thousands of ordinary Mexican citizens, it’s something that the government can’t afford to get out of hand.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.