CNN: Mexico’s President says Mexico is safer than the US
One rule for enticing people to adventure travel is that the adventure should not be too safe. The US has already embarked on a massive “Visit USA” campaign. Sadly, it lacks the punch and focuses on food and buildings. If an adventure tourist wanted to do daring things about food and buildings, why would he go to the US? He can go to Pakistan where food is at a premium and buildings get blown up every day. A Kalashnikov may be cheaper than a pound of tomatoes. Anyway, that is for the well heeled. The poor can only dream of a naan and the price of that can still get you a weathered revolver that had, in its lifetime, shot holes in many a chest. Our tourist can try Afghanistan, where he can get selfies with the planes, helicopters, drones, missiles and artillery pieces gifted to the Taliban by the US as they said goodbye to each other. A more civilized end to a war cannot be imagined where the occupied gave enough time to the occupier to board their large planes and the occupier showed their appreciation with these small gifts amounting to only $8 billion, small change for a nation that has given $ 100 billion to Zelensky and is still counting. If the traveller is a woman, she can try adventure in Iran. The adventure of seeing the tomb of Cyrus the Great or the original Zoroastrian fire-temple at Yazd, where the fire has been burning for more than 1500 years, is small change as compared to going out without a hijab in Teheran or in other cities.
As you traverse the streets with your head uncovered, you see many men and women giving you the thumbs up, shopkeepers offer you free sherbet and the taxi drivers offer you free ride. If you are lucky, you may witness the new Persian sport called turban tossing. A teenager on cycle sneaks behind a turbaned mullah, tosses his turban high in the air with a dexterous flick of his hand and zooms off pedalling harder than the American paddle that spanks the bottom of young children. Some of the turban-tossers are so devoted to the game that they have declared the formation of a sports federation, though the IOC has yet to decide whether it is a game or a sport. The Federation’s Twitter page has 30,000 followers attesting to its quick rise towards recognition by the IOC. The rules are based on the distance travelled by the tossed headgear vertically and horizontally before it hits the ground. The grand prize for the tosser who can bring the turban home – at least 20 Molotov cocktails, says a Facebook post. Some of the mullahs are now using a string tied under the chin to secure the turban and that has led to new designs of turban chinstraps. Maybe, the mullahs should shift to helmets.
As the female tourist is immersed in these adventurous sights and sounds, a vehicle zooms in, the rear door opens, four hands grab her inside and the vehicle zooms off, even as many phones record videos of the adventure. Next day, the tourist is on the front pages of newspapers and all over the news channels, viral on Twitter and Facebook, her face the most recognisable of all the 7.8 billion humans. Her family and friends and even strangers, whom she had never known, now claim her acquaintance. They are surrounded by hoards of reporters recording every little morsel of her life that they can be recalled or quickly invented. They gush over her spirit that found the murderous streets of Chicago too dull for her taste and hence she moved on to Iran for the real bit of it. And all that happens when she was not even kidnapped. What happened was just a formality, a formal arrest by the Basij, a zillion strong force, well paid from the public exchequer to pick up and “re-educate” women who engage in the adventure sport called, “Not-properly-wearing-hijab.” Breaking attire laws can be more adventurous than breaking nudity laws.
It could take six months and a container load of Dollar bills, for the US government to finally secure your release, as Obama had done in 2016 to secure the release of US servicemen kidnapped by the Iranian forces, paying the ransom of $ 1.7 billion in dollar bills. Trump claimed it was ransom money while the White House said it was settlement of old claims and the release of marines was coincidental. For you the amount may be even more insignificant, just a few million. That should satisfy the curiosity of those who wonder how Iran gets the money for R&D to make nukes, missiles and drones; the last are strictly for export to Russia, a market that will last as long as the Ukraine war or Putin lasts, whichever is earlier.
But we digress. The next target for the adventurer could be Kim’s North Korea, where a group of young Americans was invited to enjoy the beautiful country and the sight of its fat leader. Then on the day of their departure, one of them was kept back as a “guest” for somewhat longer period for his alleged adventure of “stealing” a sign from outside his hotel room. As the US was distracted while grovelling and begging for his release, Kim detonated a nuke. With that the 23-year old Otto Frederick Warmbier served the raison d’être of his life on this earth and he was returned to his homeland on a stretcher to die in peace a week later and be buried as a martyr; a truly great adventure for a young American.
Then, there is China, if you have the patience to wait till an important Chinese is arrested in the US or in Canada. Then you should immediately land in Beijing and use your camera to shoot a beggar on the streets of Beijing or Shanghai. This may be adventure for you but the Chinese are very protective of the privacy and anonymity of their beggars particularly at a time when an important Chinese has been arrested in the West. So, your adventure starts with police, moves through interrogation, prison and courts. Believe it or not, China has a Constitution, mostly containing the thoughts of Mao and Xi Jinping. In an obscure part, it is written that the judiciary works under the direction of the Party with the Communist Party’s Political and Legal Affairs Commission having direct control over the courts. So, the Court waits till the Party decides that you can be exchanged for the Chinese arrested earlier. Meanwhile, if they give you food, that will be another adventure; China is the only country where an organised industry collects oil floating in gutters, refines it and sells it for cooking. The Chinese, civilized so long ago that they have forgotten, serve you food that is really hot and you can ask for an extra helping of the chilly sauce. The other delicacy, the cockroaches, will be in plenty in your prison cell. Being arrested in China is such an adventurous experience but do not be tempted to repeat it once prisoner exchange happens unless you are strongly inclined to be a martyr who would be executed by a single bullet and cremated in a furnace that reminds of the ones operated by the Nazis in the concentration camps. The Nazis only extracted gold teeth from the corpses but the Chinese will extract the organs immediately before or after the death, the last philanthropy of an adventurer.
With all these options on the table, the Mexican President Obrador sticks out his neck and says “Mexico is safer than the US, for the tourists.” Of course, it is. Any place on earth is safer than the US where a civilian can buy a weapon of any complexity, size, calibre, rate of fire etc. across the counter. It makes the buyer unsafe as he carries it around, as the 100-pound weapon can cause shoulder dislocation. Firing it can cause loss of hearing too but that is not a problem; America likes to speak and only others have to hear. In Mexico, every citizen is member of a gang or a drug cartel. In the capitalist US, you have to have money to buy weapons or drugs. In the perennially socialist Mexico, even the poorest can join the cartel and get a weapon and drugs. When they shoot these weapons, there is always return fire, making it truly adventurous. Gangs offer protection to members and their families. So, land in Mexico with your entire extended family, let the most adventurous in the family declare gang membership and acquire the require tattoo and you are safe. If the police arrest you by mistake, the gang reminds them and they quickly make amends as they did in the case of Ovidio Guzman son of “El Chapo” Joaquin Guzman. Within a day of Ovidio’s arrest, the President realised his mistake and ordered his release after dozens of police vehicles had been destroyed and 29 had died in the exchange of fire with the gang. Yes, Mr Obrador, we agree; Mexico is safer than the US for the traveller but too safe for the adventure seeker.
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