Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gives his regularly scheduled morning press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Feb 28, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
MEXICO CITY – Mexico's president said on Monday his country is safer than the United States, pushing back against US critics of his security record following a deadly kidnapping this month near the border that claimed the lives of two Americans.
The March 3 attack on four Americans in the Mexican city of Matamoros and their subsequent abduction was covered closely by US media and sparked recriminations from politicians in the US, particularly Republicans.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said American tourists and Mexicans living in the US were aware of how safe the country is, and pointed to a recent rise in Americans residing in Mexico
By the time Mexican authorities found the Americans, two of them were dead. Five purported Mexican drug cartel members have since been arrested over the kidnapping.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has threatened to urge Mexican-Americans not to vote for Republican candidates if they continue their criticism, rejected US official security warnings that depict much of Mexico as a risky place to visit.
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"Mexico is safer than the United States," he told reporters when questioned about the warnings at a news conference. "There's no problem with traveling safely around Mexico."
Lopez Obrador said American tourists and Mexicans living in the US were aware of how safe the country is, and pointed to a recent rise in Americans residing in Mexico. Last year saw a sharp jump in US tourists coming to Mexico.
He blamed an "anti-Mexico" campaign by conservative US politicians for negative reports about security.
The US embassy in Mexico did not respond to a request for comment about the president's comments.
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At 28 per 100,000 people, Mexico's murder rate was around four times higher than in the United States in 2020, according to data published by the World Bank. Homicides fell about 7 percent last year in Mexico, but the current government is on track to register a record total for any six-year administration.
The US State Department assigns varying levels of travel risk to all but two of Mexico's 32 regions.
On top of the kidnappings, US police say two women from Texas have been missing in Mexico since late February when they drove across the border to sell clothes at a flea market.
A spokesperson for police in Penitas, near McAllen, said sisters Marina Perez Rios, 48, and Maritza Trinidad Perez Rios, 47, and their Mexican friend, Dora Alicia Cervantes Saenz, 53, have been unaccounted for since Feb 27, and the FBI had been alerted.
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Meanwhile, authorities in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, which has been racked by severe gang violence, said seven women – including a group of six – had been reported missing in the state during the last week.
Separately, an attack by gunmen in a bar in the town of Apaseo El Grande, Guanajuato, on Saturday night has claimed the lives of 10 people, a spokesperson for state prosecutors said. Prosecutors first reported eight dead, but two more people injured in the shooting have since died, the official said.