From the Economist magazine’s business travel blog Gulliver:
Mexico: safer than Canada
Aug 27th 2010, 14:36 by T.W. | MEXICO CITY
OK, so the headline is a bit of a fib. But a report on Mexico’s security situation has painted a more detailed picture than the one we hear about in the news most of the time. When I told friends I was moving to Mexico City, some asked if I would be provided with a bodyguard (no). Business travellers are thinking twice about coming, according to chambers of commerce here. But a detailed breakdown of violence released this week shows that, if you pick your state, you’re as safe—or safer—than in any other North American country.
Mexico’s overall homicide rate is 14 per 100,000 inhabitants: fearsomely high (and possibly an underestimate, given the drugs cartels’ habit of hiding bodies in old mines), but quite a lot lower than its great Latin rival Brazil, whose rate is more like 25. As the chart below shows, Mexico’s death rate is bumped up by extraordinarily high levels of violence in four states: Chihuahua (home of Ciudad Juárez, widely labelled the world’s most murderous city), Durango, Sinaloa and Guerrero (see p.29 of this document). Of the rest, some are blissfully serene: Yucatán, where tourists flock to swim with whale sharks and clamber over Chichen Itzá, has a murder rate of 1.7—slightly lower than Canada’s average of 2.1.
Before I am buried an avalanche of polite Canadian emails, I should acknowledge that comparing an entire country with one quiet state is hardly fair: there are no doubt parts of Canada where no-one has been so much as kicked in the shin for decades. But Mexico’s predicament is worth highlighting, because the extreme violence around its border with the United States colours people’s view of the rest of the country, though much of it is pretty quiet. A third of Mexico’s states hover around 5 murders per 100,000, about the same rate as the United States. Another third are around 8 per 100,000, similar to Thailand, for instance. A handful of states have rates in the teens—like Russia, say—and a couple are in the low twenties, a little lower than Brazil’s average. Then you have the chaos of the four very violent states, which sends the average soaring.
The carnage in Mexico’s badlands is not to be underestimated, and nor does it seem to be getting any better. Business travellers should certainly watch out in places such as Juárez and, these days, even in cities such as Monterrey. But people doing business south of the Rio Grande should remember that, even on average, Mexico is a less murderous country than places such as Brazil, and that once you avoid the hotspots, it’s downright safe.