We’ve had a very wet and cold Easter Weekend here on the Westcoast and Quebec has just had the worst ice storm in recent memory that knocked out power for over a million people, including Montreal. Sitting in our usual spot in the heated pub this doesn’t feel like spring at all yet. ‘Give me back Mexico,’ I said to Camp taking off my rain-soaked jacket.
Camp raised a quizzical eyebrow. ‘Here is a quote I read: With a hammer in hand, everything looks like a nail. With a gun in hand, everything looks like a potential target. Add a uniform to go with the gun, everything looks like an actual target. It’s about the Mexican Military taking control of the country. AMLO (Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador)dissolved the federal police and handed civilian security over to the military. There is no more civilian oversight and Mexico is turning into a military dictatorship. They build airports, resorts, run the railroads and the lucrative customs; they manage themselves and act with impunity and the blessing of their misguided president.
‘Doesn’t surprise me,’ I said. ‘He’s an admirer of Ortega, Castro and Chavez and even went hat in hand to El Chapo’s mother in Sinaloa. When video surfaced of his brother accepting bags of cash or his son living in a mansion in Houston, he blames the media.’
‘He is a populist who believes in amulets and spells and his ‘hugs instead of bullets’ gospel did not curb Mexico’s rampant violence,’ Camp said raising his pint.
‘Whenever we travel to Mexico, we feel safe, believing that tourists are not targets and therefore we are left alone since we are a vital part of the country’s economy. Mind you, we have been involved in a violent uprising in Chiapas and our bus was burned down and we have been escorted through a town after a gunbattle between Narcos and the Federales left a few fatalities. ‘This is not your war,’ the woman whose son was killed the night before, said to us as she led us through the sombre town to the same bus on the other side since all traffic was turned around on both sides of the town.
‘That sounds rather dramatic and if that would have happened here in BC, the whole nation would be up in arms. Down there it’s just an isolated incident.’
‘Well, yes, but we’ve just been to a beautiful town in Michoacan and felt perfectly safe and loved it,’ I said defensively, ‘and when I see heavily armed and uniformed soldiers cruising through town in pickup trucks with gun turrets over the cab, I feel protected not threatened.’
‘AMLO’S claim that Mexico is safer than the US is a typical twisting of the facts and an outright lie. Mexico’s murder rate is four times higher than that in the US and has been steadily going up under his watch.’
‘Yes, instead he could have pointed to Mexico’s vibrant tourism industry that attracted 66 million international visitors last year and the simple fact that most tourist destinations, including Mexico City are perfectly safe.’
‘You’re probably right and the gringo culture is reasonably safe but I doubt that the Mexicans feel the same way. Mexico is still a country where there is a definite divide between the first and the third world, between the beach resorts and the army of servants living in the crowed quarters away from the margaritas and swimming pools.’
‘Canadians love Mexico. Not just the over one million snowbirds who migrate south as the days get shorter and colder but according to a 2020 census, 12’500 Canadian expats live there permanently. And then there are the medical and dental tourists. It’s not just the sunshine and the beaches.’
Vicky brought around a new round of beers and Camp wanted to know if she’d ever been to Mexico. ‘Yes, my mom talks about the time when she, my dad and I, just 4 years old, drove down the Baja and camped in a VW van. Those were the days. I wish I’d remember.’