Just days after four Americans were kidnapped and two were killed as they crossed the border into Mexico, Mexico’s president says his country is safer than the United States
“Mexico is safer than the United States and there is no problem traveling safely through Mexico,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said during his daily press briefing. “US citizens know this, and our compatriots know it. It’s not that they’re afraid. It’s not that this violence you’re talking about really exists, no. It’s manipulation, pure and vile manipulation.”
The group was reportedly traveling for low-cost medical procedures, highlighting the dangers of medical tourism. The industry brings a lot of money to Mexico. But going under the knife at a Mexican clinic has left many Americans fighting for their lives.
Justine Rodriguez had a bariatric procedure that left her fighting for her life and on a feeding tube for nearly three years.
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“I was nervous about the operation, but like I said, I was desperate,” says Justine Rodriguez.
Rodriguez weighed nearly 400 pounds when the Idaho native made the decision to have weight-loss surgery. His insurance wouldn’t cover the procedure, so she went to Tijuana, Mexico.
“This was probably the worst choice I’ve ever made in my life,” Rodriguez said.
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The 2016 operation cost just $5,000 but left Rodriguez, now 37, with severe complications.
“My lungs collapsed. My kidneys and liver were going. The infection went to my brain,” Rodriguez says.
Medical tourism is a booming business in Mexico. Over 1 million Americans cross the border each year to save up to 70% on elective procedures. According to Patients Beyond Borders, the most common procedures are dental work and cosmetic and weight loss surgeries. Patients Beyond Borders writes an international medical travel guide.
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“In Mexico, there are fewer regulations. So you have to do your homework,” said Josef Woodman, CEO of Patients Beyond Borders.
As seen this month in Matamoros, Mexico, crossing the border can be deadly.
“We got used to patients being virtually 100 percent safe when crossing the border, even into dangerous territory,” Woodman says.
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But, as long as it’s cheaper south of the border, Americans will take the risk.
“The money isn’t worth it. It’s not worth your life,” Rodriguez said.
As officials warn of cartel violence just across the border, the CDC reminds Americans of the risks of medical tourism, noting that standards at clinics outside the country are different than in the U.S.
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The CDC also issued advisories after finding several patients contracting serious infections linked to antibiotic-resistant clinics in Mexico.