Sunday August 19 2018

Posted by BajaInsider.com on January 22, 2018
  • 12/20/17 Firefighters remove the second of two bodies found hung to death from a bridge near the La Paz airport. Earlier the same morning two more were found on a Cabo San Lucas overpass and two more on a bridge in San Jose del Cabo
    12/20/17 Firefighters remove the second of two bodies found hung to death from a bridge near the La Paz airport. Earlier the same morning two more were found on a Cabo San Lucas overpass and two more on a bridge in San Jose del Cabo
  • More than 1200 Federal Police and Marines augment crime fighters in BCS and president Enrique Peña Nieto has promised Federal support.
    More than 1200 Federal Police and Marines augment crime fighters in BCS and president Enrique Peña Nieto has promised Federal support.
  • SUV of State Human Rights Commission President  Silvestre de la Toba where he and his son were murdered across from a major shopping mall in La Paz in the evening traffic
    SUV of State Human Rights Commission President Silvestre de la Toba where he and his son were murdered across from a major shopping mall in La Paz in the evening traffic
  • Police staffing has been stressed with a lack of officers for multiple reasons, but keeping a good tourist image has been a focus.
    Police staffing has been stressed with a lack of officers for multiple reasons, but keeping a good tourist image has been a focus.
  • The manufacture, distribution and sale of Crystal Meth is the product driving the drug war in BCS. The competitors are going head to head for total vertical market integration from vial to vein.
    The manufacture, distribution and sale of Crystal Meth is the product driving the drug war in BCS. The competitors are going head to head for total vertical market integration from vial to vein.
  • Young man with criminal record executed in San Jose del Cabo, most of the executed are young men between 21 and 30 years of age with a recently increasing number of women
    Young man with criminal record executed in San Jose del Cabo, most of the executed are young men between 21 and 30 years of age with a recently increasing number of women
  • State Human Rights Commission President  Silvestre de la Toba was executed in La Paz November 20, 2017 His son was also killed while his wife and daughter in the back seat escaped major injury.
    State Human Rights Commission President Silvestre de la Toba was executed in La Paz November 20, 2017 His son was also killed while his wife and daughter in the back seat escaped major injury.
  • Twenty two year old single mom abducted, tortured and strangled in La Paz 12/11/17 will see a surge of local outrage
    Twenty two year old single mom abducted, tortured and strangled in La Paz 12/11/17 will see a surge of local outrage
  • Cartel execution at a popular San Jose del Cabo beach
    Cartel execution at a popular San Jose del Cabo beach

Updated January 22, 2018, For many years the southern portion of the Baja peninsula, the state of Baja California Sur, seemed immune to the drug-related violence that has plagued other parts of Mexico. We weren't on a transportation route, a border state or had significant enough population to make the drug "plaza" (market) worth fighting for. The local joke was La Paz and the state was insulated from the violence because this is where the jefes (bosses) came to retire.  

From January to July of 2014 there were only 27 homicides in the entire state and Baja California Sur was the safest state in Mexico.

Editor's Note:

For the purpose of brevity in the article and pretty much throughout Mexico "North Americans" refers to citizens of Canada and the United States for convenience.

Since 1944 the term "Americans" generally refers to citizens of the United States.

Although neither is technically correct just ask any other English speaking nationality if they are "American" and find that from Canada to Belize how quickly you will be corrected. (wink)

That which remains secret from foreigners

But that all came to an end in the first weeks of August 2014. It seems to have begun with a mass shooting at a private party in Los Planes when automatic weapons-toting assassins killed five. 

In the months that followed we had a number of acts of violence that put the public in danger with running gun battles in Cabo San Lucas, Pescadero, and La Paz. By the end of 2014, Baja California Sur had jumped from #32 to #4 in homicides per capita with 92 homicides, 13.7 per 100K in population, an increase of 172%. (note that BCS is the second least populated state in Mexico) In these early days of the conflict 2 women were wounded by stray bullets and an "innocent" young family of three was exterminated in their car near Walmart in La Paz. But it turned out later that the young mom was suspected of peddling through the brand name pizza pub where she worked. 

The year 2015 saw a continuing increase in drug-related homicides with 177 or 27.7 per 100K, moving up to the #3 position. But things to the onlooker seemed quiet, as most of the homicides were discovered as body drops, tortured, bound and sometimes dismembered about town. Another dead bad guy found under a bridge didn't seem like such a bad thing. But in March of that year, there was a running gun battle between police and marines along the Malecon of La Paz that made headlines as hand grenades were tossed out of the car being pursued. Now either the bad guys hadn't watched enough movies or they were trying to get rid of evidence, because none of the pins were pulled and none exploded. 

Things seemed quieted in 2016 on the surface, and in early fall of that year, the problem seemed to disappear underground. But 2016 still saw a record number of homicides, mostly drug-related, with a total of 247 or 38 per 100K, taking BCS to #2. But still, it was a case of out of sight, out of mind and areas frequented by North American visitors still appeared tranquil, although there were still a couple of 'public' incidents and civic assassinations. It was still just a bunch of dead bad guys. Two hundred additional Federal Police were added to bolster the La Paz and Cabo San Lucas law enforcement. 

Reaching 701 Homicides for 2017

In 2017 Baja California Sur reached a new high/low, moving to the #1 homicide per capita position in Mexico, ending the year with 701 homicides or 110 per 100,000 inhabitants giving Baja California Sur more homicides per capita than any non-warring nation. El Salvador has the highest national homicide rate of 100 per 100,000. That is more than two and a half times the homicide rate of Detroit, Michigan, the most dangerous city in the United States. It is also more than four and a half times that of Chicago's 634 homicides in a city of 2.7 million people.

Yet by some strange phenomenon, as it has remained unmentioned in international and even national press for the most part. In the last 6 months, the state has averaged more than 2 homicides per day and two bloody weeks where the total exceeded 25. The most affected cities have been La Paz and San Jose del Cabo with Cabo San Lucas not far behind. But every city has been affected, including Mulege, Guerrero Negro, Loreto, Cerritos, Pescadero, Constitucion and the Pacific region of Comondu. One alleged narco home in San Jose del Cabo was even attacked with machine guns and a grenade launcher. The good news through the first half of that year was it remained almost invisible, with body drops of just more bad guys.

December 20, 2017, saw 11 homicides in a 24hrs period spread equally across La Paz, Cabo San Lucas, and San Jose del Cabo. The first week of January started the year off poorly with 31 homicides, but things have been a little quiter in the second and thirds weeks of January 2018

But the last few months of this year saw the battle become more 'public' with the assassination of a police commandant, the head of the Human Rights Commission in La Paz and 3 police officers on the La Paz Malecon in front of a large number of residents and visitors. Although there are now more than 1200 Federal law enforcement and marines, they have proven powerless to curb the violence. A total of 16 government officials were assassinated nun 2017.

In late November the military assumed command of both the Los Cabos police and the La Paz police to coordinate countermeasures. Military units are also riding along with state and municipal police to fill the staffing gap cause by dismissals of officers failing to meet the new Federal police integrity requirements and a large number of resignations following the dissemination of year-end bonuses. 

No longer just bad guys

The first weeks of December 2017 saw the killing of what appears to be an innocent family with the machine-gunning of their SUV. In early December a young 22-year-old mother of two was abducted from the flower shop where she worked and found beaten tortured and strangled several hours later. Another person with a criminal record was assailed in the Domino's Pizza, wounded and pursued into the Sears store in La Paz along with 6 homicides in San Jose del Cabo. Municipal and state law enforcement has been unable to meet recruiting requirements and an unverified number of police quit the force following payment of year-end bonuses, not wanting to face the choice of payment in "gold or lead" posed by the cartel. Currently, there are more than 20 state police vehicles awaiting officers to man them in La Paz.

Additionally, a significant number of police (Baja and nationwide) were dismissed this fall,  for failing to pass the new Federal Law Enforcement Criteria which included aptitude, background, and drug testing. 

I think the most significantly tell-tale event of the past month was a car to car shootout which began on Mexico's Hwy 1 just north of Cabo San Lucas. The 'victims' attempted to make for a Cabo San Lucas police substation for assistance. Less than 75 yards from that substation the assassins completed their task killing both driver and passenger – there was no police response from the station until gunfire had been long gone. 

Are North Americans in danger?

No, the cartels are not coming after you – yet. In the time frame of the current drug war, only 2 foreigners have been killed in unrelated incidents and the total number of Americans killed on vacation in all of Mexico has declined to the point you are statistically more likely to be murdered at home by a family member. But the danger that comes to mind is best exemplified by the "Pizzeria Incident" where the victim was wounded with two bullets and more than 20 shots were fired. Where did the other 18 go?

In early January 2018, the state began a "Safe Tourist" program. Other than the title, the details of the program have been sketchy, more information is on the way later in January. I will post them to this site as soon as they are available.

What it means is you should be more aware of things developing around you and keep to the better areas, there are plenty of those to offer in any of our BCS pueblos. 

What has affected foreigners living in BCS is the increase in other crimes as the criminal element expands into other fields of endeavor, car theft, robberies and even virtual kidnapping. (where the victims aren't really abducted, but ransom demands are made by phone) This is where they steal someone's phone and get a voice to call and say 'Daddy they got me' in the appropriate language so fast you can't identify it, then demand a ransom. I was a "victim" of one of these calls myself, funny thing though is I don't HAVE a daughter. Establish a family code word with your children is a foolproof defense, and hanging up works really good too. 

Should I cancel my Baja Sur vacation?

No, please don't, not yet anyway. Tourism is the #1 source of income in the state and removing that would make the criminal element even stronger. Just be more aware of your surroundings and perhaps one less tequila? (wink) They are not targeting foreigners. It's not about being afraid, it's about being aware. 

What you can do to help

First, for your own safety, pay attention to events around you and if you are a newbie, stay on the beaten tourist path. (perhaps that's a bad organization of words) let's say, tourist beaten path.

Second, Let the state know you know about the issue plaguing the state. Baja California Sur has the fourth fastest growing economy in Mexico and it is almost entirely a result of increased tourism, both national and international. All three major airports in BCS have seen significant increases in travelers in the past three years. Until this source of income is threaten those with the money and power don't need to care. The head of the Los Cabos Hotel Association recently called the cancelations resulting from the news "Just a bump in the road." How heartless in the face of the REAL problem. The major industry of the state needs to throw its significant weight into the fight. If scaring them into being part of the solution doesn't work, reconsider your Baja plans for late 2018.

You can make your voice heard without damaging the income of the hard-working people of the state by simply calling your Baja travel reservation holder and asking "What is your policy on reservation cancelations due to the increased violence in the state?" The major chains and both the La Paz and Los Cabos travel associations track this data and hopefully, we can get the weight of their money behind ending this problem. 

If you own a business or property in Baja California Sur get involved, for the protection of your person, investment, home, goals and future. They are intimidating police and politicans with death threats, once the cartels achieve control it will be too late. 

Finally, please don't come to the state to party with illegal substances. For decades the saying was "What happens in Cabo, stays in Cabo" and what is a few bindles of cocaine on vacation? You are directly funding our problem that we have to live with. For your own health, you should also know we lab tested street 'cocaine' only to have it come up negative for coke, it was mostly crystal meth and speed. And also know that, although small quantities of drugs including marijuana have been 'decriminalized' in other parts of Mexico, BCS has enacted tougher new laws that can gain you prison time for as little as 3 grams, yes, about two joints. 

Let me assure you, there is no local complacency on this issue. If you own a business or real estate in Baja California Sur it is time to make your voice h


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