A vacation can be stressful enough without adding masked gunman to the equation. But a rising crime in the Baja California of Mexico is apparently making that a more common occurrence.
Assaults on American tourists have brought hard times to hotels and restaurants that dot Mexican beaches just south of the border from San Diego.
Surfers and kayakers are frightened to hit the waters of the northern stretch of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, long popular as a weekend destination for U.S. tourists. Weddings have been canceled. Lobster joints a few steps from the Pacific were almost empty on the usually busy New Year’s weekend.
Americans have long tolerated shakedowns by police who boost salaries by pulling over motorists for alleged traffic violations, and tourists know parts of Baja are a hotbed of drug-related violence. But a handful of attacks since summer by masked, armed bandits some of whom used flashing lights to appear like police marks a new extreme that has spooked even longtime visitors.
Lori Hoffman, a San Diego-area emergency room nurse, said she was sexually assaulted Oct. 23 by two masked men in front of her boyfriend, San Diego Surfing Academy owner Pat Weber, who was forced to kneel at gunpoint for 45 minutes. They were at a campground with about 30 tents, some 200 miles south of the border.
The men shot out windows of the couple’s trailer and forced their way inside, ransacked the cupboards and left with about $7,000 worth of gear, including computers, video equipment and a guitar.
Weber, who has taught dozens of students in Mexico over the last 10 years, plans to surf in Costa Rica or New Zealand. “No more Mexico,” said Hoffman, who reported the attack to Mexican police. No arrests have been made.