Monday, February 8, 2010

Security and Safety in Mexico

Racing into the famous Copper Canyon


The constant reports of violent crime in Mexico are a concern for anyone traveling across the border. However, competitors in the Chihuahua Express and Carrera Panamericana should be assured that every precaution is being taken to protect them from this violence.

The purpose of this post is to discuss this situation and to outline what steps are being taken to protect the competitors and spectators in the Chihuahua Express in March. The plans for the Carrera in October are comparable.

1. Understanding the nature of the violence in Mexico.

Almost all the violence reported in the U.S. media is a result of conflict among Mexican drug gangs who are battling for control of the drug traffic across the border and for distribution rights in border towns.

Apart from this violence, which is spawned by the demand in the U.S. for illegal drugs, the Mexican people are among the most law-abiding people in the world.

In the past seven years of the Chihuahua Express and its precursor, the Border Challenge, we have witnessed not one act of violence, even a minor incident. In fact, in the past twenty-two years of its companion race, La Carrera Panamericana, we have not had one incident of violence against a competitor or spectator.

2. The Federal and State Governments of Mexico and Chihuahua are dedicated to protecting those who travel to Mexico.

As in past years, thirty-six Federal Highway Patrol Officers will be assigned to protect the Chihuahua Express. In addition, there will be sixty-eight police from the State of Chihuahua, along with seventy-seven municipal police officers. A total of 163 police officers will be assigned to this event.

Furthermore, in the countryside another fifty-two auxiliary police will be assigned to monitor minor intersections and even the access roads to larger ranch and farms communities. These figures do not include the paramiltary police who regularly patrol this area.

3. Our route into Mexico avoids the major trouble area, Ciudad Juarez.

Each year the Express Convoy gathers in El Paso, Texas for the trip across the border and the 220 miles down to Chihuahua City.

Instead of crossing the border in Ciudad Juarez, the Express Convoy enters through Santa Teresa, New Mexico, (Jerónimo, Mexico), which is twenty-two miles west of Juarez. The convoy will also exit Mexico by the same route on Monday, March 22.

Mexican friends of the Chihuahua Express and police officers will escort the convoy to Chihuahua City, which is 220 miles or three hours and a half from the border.

4. The Express Convoy affords support and protection.

The North American competitors will gather Tuesday, March 16 at the Sunland Park Holiday Inn, west of El Paso, to enjoy a welcome cocktail and meeting to discuss the trip to Chihuahua City. The convoy will cross the border the next day (Wednesday) at 8:00 AM through Santa Teresa , NM (into San Jerónimo, Mexico), and arrive at the luxurious Soberano Hotel around 13:00 hours the same day.

The highway to Chihuahua is an excellent four-lane highway, with only one small town along the way. The route is patrolled by the Mexican army, which has checkpoints along the way. The convoy will not leave anyone behind.

Other competitors, from Texas and Oklahoma may enter Mexico through Ojinga (across from Presidio, TX), only 145 miles (two and a half hours) from Chihuahua City. There are no cities along this stretch of desert.

5. Medical services, support, and secure accommodations provided while racing.

In addition to the police officers assigned to the event, intensive-care ambulances, rescue teams, and doctors, for each twelve cars, will accompany the competitors during the three days of the race. In the event of a serious accident, the hospitals in Chihuahua City are considered first-rate, and evacuation to the U.S. is relatively quick and easy.

The competitors will return to the Soberano Hotel each night, which is located on a secure hill overlooking the city. The hotel provides security to its grounds, including the parking lot at night.


The violence in Mexico is drug related. It is largely confined to border towns, or to certain areas of towns along the drug routes. There is no reason--economic or political-- for drug gangs to target competitors in the Chihuahua Express or any other sporting event. By staying out of Juarez and the marginal areas of town, we reduce the chances of random or accidental violence.

The actual route of the Express -- across the vast, open expanses of northern Mexico -- also greatly reduces the changes of accidental contact with those who are responsible for violence in places like Juarez and other border towns. (Check out the videos and photos of the route on YouTube. It's sparsely populated country.)

In twenty-two years or more of rallying and road racing in Mexico, the Mexican people have treated the competitors only with warm and kindness.

By taking all prudent and necessary precautions, the organizers are confident that the personal security of the competitors will be protected.