Canadians debating travel to Mexico after attacks on citizens
REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- A string of brutal attacks on Canadians has travelers in Canada debating whether they should continue to visit Mexico.
In the latest case to rattle nerves among Canadian travelers, a Calgary woman was found badly beaten in an upscale hotel elevator last month in the Pacific coastal city of Mazatlan. Sheila Nabb was placed in a medically induced coma and underwent reconstructive surgery for injuries to her face, Canadian news reports said.
In early January, a retired man from British Columbia was shot and killed during a robbery in Puerto Vallarta. Robin Wood, 67, had lived there for four years, reports said.
In December, a dual citizen of Mexico and Canada named Ximena Osegueda Magana and her boyfriend, Alejandro Santamaria, disappeared on the southern Pacific coast of Oaxaca, an area popular with foreign tourists. Their stabbed bodies were found Dec. 27 near Huatulco beach.
Osegueda was remembered as a student at the University of British Columbia.
In all, six Canadians were killed in Mexico in 2011, reports said, and 50 were assaulted. (In contrast, 111 U.S. citizens were killed in Mexico in 2010.)
It's unclear whether those incidents had anything to do with Mexico's escalating drug-related violence, which has left more than 50,000 dead in five years. Yet some Canadians now appear to be thinking twice about Mexico, with travel agents noticing concern expressed in online forums.
"We came to a conclusion that [Cuba] was a lot better for our security," one Canadian traveler told the Globe and Mail newspaper after deciding to cancel plans to visit Mazatlan after the Sheila Nabb attack.
Authorities in Mexico and Canada are reminding tourists that more Canadians are visiting Mexico than ever, with 1 million traveling here in 2009 and 1.6 million in 2010. Others are also urging travelers to keep violent incidents in Mexico in perspective.
"It is easy for producers to justify this sensationalism because the TV stations are making Canadians aware of the risks of travelling to Mexico, which are real," wrote a columnist at Canada.com. "But there are risks, also ... with taking a cruise in Italy, or even staying locked in your own residence in Canada, where you might slip in the tub and crack your head."
Canada's current travel advisory on Mexico urges high levels of caution throughout the country and avoiding non-essential travel to the violence-plagued U.S.-Mexico border area.
"Presidential elections are scheduled for July 1, 2012," the current alert says. "In the period leading up to and during the elections, Canadians are advised to remain vigilant, avoid large crowds and demonstrations, exercise caution, follow the advice of local authorities, and monitor local media."
-- Daniel Hernandez
Photo: Spring-breakers, mostly from Canada, enjoy themselves at the beach in Cancun, Mexico, in 2009. Credit: Israel Leal / Associated Press