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Embassy Row: Texas alert angers Mexican ambassador

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The Mexican ambassador this week accused Texas of playing politics by urging college students to avoid Mexico on spring break because of a dramatic rise in violence.

"Mexico strongly disagrees with the assessment made by Texas officials regarding travel to Mexico," Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan said in a statement posted on the Mexican Embassy's website.

He added that Texas authorities "should be able to more objectively evaluate facts, providing nuance and context, and, in doing so, dispel the notion that their motivation is a clear-cut political agenda."

The Texas Department of Public Safety this week issued a travel warning to students because of "continued violence throughout" Mexico.

Public Safety Director Steven C. McCraw noted that his department has a responsibility to alert Texas residents to the dangers of visiting Mexico, where drug wars and other crimes claimed more than 13,000 lives last year.

The number of Americans killed increased to 120 last year from 35 in 2010, he said.

Mexican criminals also are targeting tourists, even in resorts that were once considered safe. Last month, thieves robbed 22 passengers from a Carnival cruise ship who were on a bus returning from a nature hike outside the port city of Puerto Vallarta.

Rape and other sexual assault against women "continue to be serious problems" in resort areas, Mr. McCraw said. He noted that some nightclubs and bars in tourist cities such as Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas and Cancun are now "havens for drug dealers and petty criminals."

American tourists account for about 60 percent of the foreigners who visit Mexico each year. Tourism represents the third-largest source of income for Mexico, behind oil and remittances from Mexicans living out of the country.

"Many crimes against Americans in Mexico go unpunished," Mr. McCraw said. "Based on the unpredictable nature of cartel violence and other criminal elements, we are urging individuals to avoid travel to Mexico at this time."

NOT JUST 'BOMBS AND BULLETS'

Pakistani Ambassador Sherry Rehman has no illusions about the violence and discriminations women face in her country, especially in rural villages where men treat wives and daughters like property.

"I know the ground realities," Ms. Rehman told visitors this week to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, where they marked International Women's Day.

The ambassador, a former two-term member of the Pakistani legislature, said her country has passed many laws to combat wife-beating, honor-killing and other violence against women.

"Our own human rights commission is vigilant in showing us the ... victims of gender brutality, which is the antithesis of what our politics and our religion stand for," she said.

"Acid attacks, honor killings, forced marriages, rape and domestic violence - this is not acceptable to any government in Pakistan."

Ms. Rehman said the government of President Asif Ali Zardari is dedicated to women's rights.

Mr. Zardari is the widower of Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister who was assassinated in 2007. Mr. Zardari this week signed a bill to allow the National Commission on the Status of Women to operate as an independent voice to advocate for women's rights.

"The Pakistan story you hear in Washington is often only about the country that fights the front lines of terror and extremism," Ms. Rehman said.

"I want to take the opportunity to say that we are not just about bombs and bullets. Pakistan is also about women who lead the way forward.

"Ladies and gentlemen, in celebration of International Womens Day, we must demand the fundamental right to be judged by who we are and what we have accomplished, not defined by our fathers and husbands, but defined by ourselves."

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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