The governor of Baja California Sur, in which the popular resort destinations Los Cabos and La Paz are located, acknowledged in an interview that violence in the state is a reality.
“There’s a territorial dispute between rival crime syndicates, and that’s the cause of the violence we have to deal with,” Carlos Mendoza Davis told the newspaper Reforma, explaining that the state’s geographical location makes it a coveted area for drug traffickers.
But he also asserted that the violence is taking place in neighborhoods that are not necessarily close to tourist areas, and dismissed the idea that the surge in criminal activity has negatively impacted visitor numbers.
“Of course, these circumstances doesn’t please us, we’re not happy about them, but it is a reality that we must confront,” continued Mendoza.
The governor’s remarks came after the United States Department of State issued an updated travel warning for Mexico, stating that criminal activity and violence remain an issue throughout Baja California Sur. But it also highlighted Los Cabos for an increase in the violence.
Most homicides, the warning said, appear to be targeted assassinations by criminal organizations but turf battles have resulted in violent crimes in areas frequented by U.S. visitors, such as La Paz and Los Cabos.
“What are we going to do? Use this unilateral decision by the government of the United States as motivation that drives us to do more,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza told Reforma that he has requested additional reinforcement by federal forces for a stronger federal presence in the state.
“As this is eminently an organized crime issue, we need the determined help of the federal government . . . .”
“We are eminently a tourist state, and the topic of insecurity is far too sensitive. One needn’t do a deep analysis to realize that people won’t visit a place if they feel unsafe,” the governor said.
“Fortunately, I must say . . . the tourist arrivals have not been affected. In fact, we’ve grown by 20% this year and of course we hope that will continue.”
The state leader of the National Action Party, to which the governor belongs, said visitor numbers are encouraging. Rigoberto Mares Aguilar said hotel occupancy in Los Cabos during the just-concluded summer vacation period was 72%, while La Paz registered a rate of 85%.
But the new travel warning could change that.
A federal tourism official said Tuesday conceded that the warning will have an effect. Gerardo Corona, the undersecretary of tourism innovation and development, said authorities will have to remain attentive to its detrimental effects on the industry.
“All bad news affects the sector . . . .”