The rise of Latin America


Big news out of Cartagena, Colombia as Hugo Chavez (Venezuela) and Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales come together with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton along with 30 other member nations for the Summit of the Americas.  Most certainly on the agenda – discussions regarding both Mexico’s and Colombia’s decisions to decriminalize drugs, as well as the continued drug violence affecting both countries.  President Evo Morales’, a former coca grower, position on drugs and the so-called ‘Drug war’ are already well-known.

While Colombia’s crime has decreased dramatically, the reverse is true in certain parts of Mexico* – where the nightly news seems more like Vietnam footage, as reporters discuss caches of guns toted by young teenagers, and Cuidad de Juarez claims the title of ‘Murder capitol of the world.”   Much of this criminal activity has been attributed to illegal drug commerce to the United States leading several countries to blame the USA for creating havoc in their home countries as suppliers attempt to feed the hoards of American drug users.

Tensions between Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba against the United States are unlikely to change as a result of this Summit, but hopes remain.  The summit is also expected to put pressure on the United States regarding the 50-year-old Cuban embargo.

It’s an interesting turn of the tide – as these issues along with the economic problems plaguing the United States (and causing problems globally) put the US at a significant disadvantage.

In related news – here at Cartagena Surgery, readers are asking:

— So how dangerous is Mexico? —

Since I am currently living in a Mexican border city, you’ve picked the right time to ask.

* There are still plenty of safe and beautiful places in Mexico – but it remains a tragedy that the Sinoloa gang / drug activity have resulted in over 47,000 murders in the last five years.  ([To put this into context, let’s do some simply math.. Simple math since I’m a nurse not a statistician, so keep that in mind as you consider the limited variables here.]

1.  Mexico has over a hundred million people (or 1/3 the people of the USA)

with  47,000 murders over five years (or that’s the number that has been widely quoted.)  Divide 47,000 by five = 9,400 people murdered per year.

2.  The US has over 300 million people, and had 18,361 murders in 2007 (last year available by the US census.) So three times the people.  Hmmm.  I can already see that 18,361 divided by three is 6,120. 

3. But to be fair – let’s also look at cummulative average for the US – and compare apples to apples.. (or five years of data to five years of data.)  It’s still not entirely comparable since our latest available data is from 2007.

2007:  18,361

2006: 18,573

2005: 18,124

2004: 17,357

2003: 17,732

for a total of 90,147 murders over five years.  If we divide that by three, we get 30,039 which is only 69% of the murders in Mexico in the same number of years.  Now you can argue it either way – since the USA numbers aren’t current, etc. etc.. but Mexico’s rate IS significantly higher..

So what does that mean for travelers?  It means – stay the heck out of Juarez..  Be extra cautious in Tijuana, and Nuevo Larado – but otherwise,  use caution & commonsense when traveling in other parts of Mexico (like you would any where else!) – and enjoy yourselves.

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