State Department sternly warns on travel to Mexico


As the holidays draw near, if you’re thinking of heading south across the border to catch a little fun and sun in Mexico, you might want to think again: the U.S. State Department has issued a strong warning advising against it.

Or at least to some parts of a nation wracked by unprecedented levels of violence.

From Spain’s El País:

The US travel warning comes against a backdrop of rising violence in Mexico, with 29,000 murders registered in the country in the year to the end of September. Of those murders, 16,749 were assassinations. If that trend continues for the rest of the year, 2016 will be the most violent 12 months since Mexico’s embattled President Enrique Peña Nieto came to office in 2016.

A UCLA study published in January said the rise in the number of homicides in Mexico from 2000 to 2010 has reduced the average life expectancy of its citizens.

According to the study, life expectancy among men who live in the north, the most violent part of the country, had fallen by three years over the period.

Mexico continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. Recently, police in Mexico’s Gulf Coast state of Veracruz said 14 criminal suspects had been killed in a gun battle with a patrol of Mexican marines.

Spelled out in dire terms

Singled out in the warning are some of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

From the advisory:

U.S. government personnel and their families are prohibited from personal travel to all areas to which the Department recommends “defer non-essential travel” in this Travel Warning. As a result of security precautions that U.S. government personnel must take while traveling to parts of Mexico, our response time to emergencies involving U.S. citizens may be hampered or delayed.

Gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities have taken place on streets and in public places during broad daylight. The Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations and has engaged in an extensive effort to counter criminal organizations that engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico. There is no evidence that criminal organizations have targeted U.S. citizens based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes.

U.S. government personnel are prohibited from patronizing casinos, sports books, or other gambling establishments in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit.

Kidnappings in Mexico take the following forms:

  • Traditional: victim is physically abducted and held captive until a ransom is paid for release.
  • Express: victim is abducted for a short time and commonly forced to withdraw money, usually from an ATM, then released.
  • Virtual: an extortion-by-deception scheme where a victim is contacted by phone and coerced by threats of violence to provide phone numbers of family and friends, and then isolated until the ransom is paid. Recently, hotel guests have been targets of such “virtual” kidnapping schemes.

U.S. citizens have been murdered in carjacking and highway robberies, most frequently at night and on isolated roads. Carjackers use a variety of techniques, including roadblocks, bumping/moving vehicles to force them to stop, and running vehicles off the road at high speeds. There are indications that criminals target newer and larger vehicles, but drivers of old sedans and buses coming from the United States are also targeted. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from intercity travel after dark in many areas of Mexico. U.S. citizens should use toll roads (cuotas) whenever possible. In remote areas, cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent.

The Mexican government has deployed federal police and military personnel throughout the country as part of its efforts to combat organized criminal groups. U.S. citizens traveling on Mexican roads and highways by car or bus may encounter government checkpoints, staffed by military or law enforcement personnel. In some places, criminal organizations have erected their own unauthorized checkpoints, at times wearing police and military uniforms, and have killed or abducted motorists who have failed to stop at them. You should cooperate at all checkpoints.

One region singled out is the of Guerrero, where 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College on 26 September 2014 are still missing [previously].

The report warns:

Personal travel to the state of Guerrero, including Acapulco, is prohibited for U.S. government personnel with the exception of travel to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo by air. In Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, U.S. government personnel must remain in tourist areas. The state of Guerrero was the most violent state in Mexico in 2015 for the third year in a row, and self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable.

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