The death of an Oregon man in Mexican police custody has ignited a debate across the Northwest and reawaked old perceptions that Mexico is unsafe and its police are lawless and crooked, reports The Oregonian. Nearly 19.5 million people visited Mexico in 2007 and spent about $10.3 billion. Sam Botner died Aug. 27 in a two-cell jail in San Jose del Cabo, a tourist resort along Mexico’s Pacific coast. A Mexican prosecutor said police beat the 38-year-old crab fisherman to death. Six officers are in custody. Unnatural deaths — such as homicides, suicides and drownings — of U.S. citizens in foreign countries are rare. In the three years ending in June, of the 2,202 international nonnatural deaths of U.S. citizens, 637 were in Mexico. The tally, a tiny fraction of all travelers, comes from deaths reported to the State Department.
Tourism officials and travel coordinators on both sides of the border are paying close attention to the Botner case. “When you have an incident where a person is arrested and brought to jail and he’s gone, dies there, we don’t know the whole story,” said Paula Hobble, owner of Focus on Travel Inc. in Beaverton. “And when the policemen are arrested themselves, that makes everybody more upset and causes more attention.”