By David Simmonds
I have been hearing the reports for the past few months around the surf shops and beaches in San Diego. There have always been anecdotal tales about Dude’s second cousin who kinda knows a guy whose best friend was robbed on the highway… somewhere in Mexico. I always figured that some were true, but for the most part they took on a exaggerated life of their own akin to Bigfoot sightings. Between myself and a bunch of people I know who have driven tens-of-thousands of miles in Mexico, the robbery attempts equal zero.
But now it is different. In the past few months the stories have become reality on the coast road south of Tijuana, in the same general area where expensive condo projects are sprouting like mushrooms. We Baja travelers have always expected to get the occasional shakedown from a cop for a real or imagined traffic violation. That was annoying, but okay. For about $20.00 you were on your way and the under-paid cop had some extra money to buy his kids an ice cream. But now the cops aren’t cops. I don’t know who they are but they wear ski masks, carry high-powered weapons, and they take everything you own after scaring the crap out of you.
The word on the street is that until this situation improves it is best to not drive that way. It isn’t an epidemic, with just a half-dozen or so verified reports in the past three months, but it is getting some attention. Most likely, not all of the assaults have been reported.
Baja surfers typically drive to remote beaches, usually down dirt roads, where they set up camp for a few days. It is not realistic for the limited local law enforcement people to patrol everywhere and prevent every incident. But Mexico clearly needs to get a handle on this now. President Calderon has fanned thousands of military soldiers across the country looking for drug operations, without a great deal of success. I suggest that he send a couple of well-trained units into northern Baja to let the thug banditos know that this can not continue. It may be that it will take the assault or murder of one of the higher-profile condo-owners to spur some action, but that will certainly eventually happen if this isn’t addressed now.