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Travel News

Mexico Plans To Restrict Social Networking

by Elena on February 16, 2010

Police in Mexico

Imagine you wake up one morning and suddenly there are restrictions on your Facebook account.  Think of the upheaval when Facebook merely changed its landing page and design, what do you think would happen if users couldn’t sign in at all.  Most people would freak out because let’s face it, there is something about the book of faces that can be very addicting.

The Mexican government plans to implement every social network addict’s nightmare by restricting social networking sites, starting off with Twitter.  Twitteros, users of Twitter, have been causing some havoc in Mexico City and around the country, by creating accounts used to alert people of alcohol checkpoints.  Police in the US have also faced this problem when Americans tweet about the locations of alcohol checkpoints or officers lurking in the shadows waiting to catch you speed.  While this does cause some concern among authorities, users of social network sites like Twitter hardly agree it constitutes placing restrictions on accounts.

Alerting other Twitter users about alcohol checkpoints is irresponsible but not necessarily unlawful.  You can’t arrest someone for telling their friend that they saw a police officer on such and such street, however when you post it on Twitter it reaches a much broader audience.  This is were things get complicated.  In Mexico City the law states a 5 year prison sentence for people who “in any way help a delinquent avoid investigation by the authorities or escape their actions.”  Does this include helping drunk drivers get away from police?

The Mexican drug war creates a much bigger problem for social network sites.  Why you may ask?  Well think of it this way.  Kidnapping and escalating drug violence is on the rise in Mexico.  If a kidnapper is looking to get information about a person they plan to abduct, where do you think they are going to look first?  Where is the easiest place to find information about where a person lives, who their friends and family are, where they go to school or work, what they look like, or where they hang out?  Facebook is a kidnapper’s dream because it provides all this information in an easily accessible homepage.

Scary huh?  The sad fact is that if you have family in Mexico, you know someone who has been affected by the rising violence and crime, in particular near the border.  But the question is whether or not it is necessary to restrict or shutdown these sites as a matter of public safety.  There are plans to set up a police force to monitor Twitter and the like, for unlawful activity or death threats.  While this can provide some peace of mind for some, there is still the fact that drug cartels are known to infiltrate the police department and even the military.  The same problems seem to persist.

If you are unaware of the severity of the drug situation in Mexico take a look at the LA Times’ Mexico Under Siege, which offers interactive maps, statistics, and up to the date news on the ever growing situation.  There are also many horrific stories coming from people who live in these war town areas.  Stories about corrupt military, officers forced to hide and avoid the drug cartels, as well as the fact that police cover their faces for fear that the narcos will recognize them and exact revenge on one’s family.  The fact that narcos are using technology is not new and security experts acknowledge that “drug traffickers have an intelligence network and, as far as I know, at this moment in time it’s more effective than ours.”  This forces law enforcement to become more involved with technology and social media, places one wouldn’t normally imagine police activity would be necessary.



Machu Picchu’s Uncertain Future

by Elena on February 13, 2010

Peru Machu PicchuA couple weeks ago, floods and mudslides forced over 3,900 tourists to flee the area.  Most were flown out by helicopter because the flooding destroyed the trail system that people use to go to and from Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes.Peru Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu remains closed to tourists and will stay that way until the Peruvian government can rebuild the rail system.  Machu Picchu already had a weakened structure, growing more weak with each of the thousands of tourists who wander on top of its stones each year.  The flooding will undoubtedly affect the tourism economy.  Peru officials are worried about these effects, and they are already lowering prices trying to lull tourism back to the country.

The fact that people lost their homes, livelihoods, and businesses is enough to bear, but the effects will be even harder to recover from if tourism doesn’t pick up eventually.  It is a sad truth that locals who depend highly on tourism will be affected the most, at least the most directly.

One of the reasons I avoid writing about such tragic events is because my words always seem trivial compared to the events themselves.  Rick Steves does a great job with this sort of commentary such as his response to the earthquake in Haiti and his commentary on the poverty in Haiti even before the disaster struck, but not all of us have that ability.

Having been in Peru less than a year ago it is extremely sad to see the same places I visited destroyed.  Again, this is an egocentric feeling that displays how the places you visit form a personal connection with you always.  The footage of the wreckage, as well as a post from Uncornered Market, inspired me to go through my pictures of Peru.  The photography section is back up with pictures from Peru, including Machu Picchu.

Images via: The Sacramento Bee