If you’re planning a spring trip to Mexico, the U.S. State Department has some words of advice for you. According to new travel advisories listed due to the extensive drug violence sweeping the country, the State Department says to be extremely cautious in certain parts of the country, including the popular beach vacation destinations of Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Coast. No advisories are issued, however, for the Yucatan area, including Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, the Riveria Maya, Merida or Chichen Itza on the Caribbean coast. There also is no advisory for Cabo San Lucas on the Pacific Coast.
The State Department says that while there is “no evidence that Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) have targeted U.S. visitors and residents based on their nationality,” vacationers need to be extremely cautious. “Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes,” according to the February 8, 2012, advisory. “Nevertheless, U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter TCOs which engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico. The TCOs themselves are engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity. As a result, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country and can occur anywhere. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to TCO activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery.”
Although Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Riviera Maya are not under advisories, the State Department says, “Travelers should be mindful that even if no advisories are in effect for a given state, crime and violence can occur anywhere.”
Some of the other highlights of the advisory for beach vacationers:
- Baja California (north): Tijuana is a major city/travel destination in the Northern portion of Baja California: You should exercise caution in the northern state of Baja California, particularly at night.
- Baja California (South): Cabo San Lucas is a major city/travel destination in the Southern portion of Baja California: No advisory is in effect.
- Chiapas: San Cristobal de las Casas is a major city/travel destination in Chiapas: No advisory is in effect.
- Colima: Manzanillo is a major city/travel destination in Colima: You should exercise extreme caution when traveling through the areas of the state of Colima that border the state of Michoacán.
- Guerrero: Acapulco, Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo and Taxco are the major cities/travel destinations in Guerrero: You should defer non-essential travel to the northwestern and southern portions of the state (the area west and south of the town of Arcelia on the border with Estado de Mexico in the north and the town of Tlapa near the border with Oaxaca), except for the cities of Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and Ixtapa. In those cities, you should exercise caution and stay within tourist areas. You should also exercise caution and travel only during daylight hours on highway 95D (cuota/toll road) between Mexico City and Acapulco and highway 200 between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa. In Acapulco, defer non-essential travel to areas further than 2 blocks inland of the Costera Miguel Aleman Boulevard, which parallels the popular beach areas. In general, the popular tourist area of Diamante, just south of the city, has been less affected by violence. Flying into the coastal cities in southern Guerrero remains the preferred method of travel. You should also exercise caution in the northern region of Guerrero (the area north of the town of Arcelia on the border with Estado de Mexico in the north and the town of Tlapa near the border with Oaxaca). The state of Guerrero has seen an increase in violence among rival criminal organizations. Acapulco’s murder rates increased dramatically since 2009; in response, the Government of Mexico has sent additional military and federal police to the state to assist State security forces in implementing operation “Guerrero Seguro” (Secure Guerrero) that focuses on combating organized crime and returning security to the environs of popular tourist areas.
- Jalisco Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta are the major cities/travel destinations in Jalisco: You should defer non-essential travel to areas of the state that border the states of Michoacán and Zacatecas. You should also exercise caution when traveling at night outside of cities in the remaining portions of this state. The security situation along the Michoacán and Zacatecas borders continues to be unstable and gun battles between criminal groups and authorities occur. Concerns include roadblocks placed by individuals posing as police or military personnel and recent gun battles between rival TCOs involving automatic weapons.
- Oaxaca: Oaxaca, Huatulco and Puerto Escondido are the major cities/travel destinations in Oaxaca: No warning is in effect.
- Quintana Roo: Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum are the major cities/travel destinations in Quintana Roo: No advisory is in effect.
- Yucatan: Merida and Chichen Itza are the major cities/travel destinations in Yucatan: No advisory is in effect.
- Veracruz: You should exercise caution when traveling in the state of Veracruz. In recent months, the state of Veracruz has seen an increase in violence among rival criminal organizations. In response, the Government of Mexico has sent additional military and federal police to the state to assist State security forces in implementing operation “Veracruz Seguro” (Secure Veracruz) that focuses on combating organized crime.
The advisory goes on to say:
“According to the most recent homicide figures published by the Mexican government, 47,515 people were killed in narcotics-related violence in Mexico between December 1, 2006 and September 30, 2011, with 12,903 narcotics-related homicides in the first nine months of 2011 alone. While most of those killed in narcotics-related violence have been members of TCOs, innocent persons have also been killed. The number of U.S. citizens reported to the Department of State as murdered in Mexico increased from 35 in 2007 to 120 in 2011.
“Gun battles between rival TCOs or with Mexican authorities have taken place in towns and cities in many parts of Mexico, especially in the border region. Gun battles have occurred in broad daylight on streets and in other public venues, such as restaurants and clubs. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area. TCOs use stolen cars and trucks to create roadblocks on major thoroughfares, preventing the military and police from responding to criminal activity. The location and timing of future armed engagements is unpredictable. We recommend that you defer travel to the areas indicated in this Travel Warning and to exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the northern border region.
“The rising number of kidnappings and disappearances throughout Mexico is of particular concern. Both local and expatriate communities have been victimized. In addition, local police have been implicated in some of these incidents. We strongly advise you to lower your profile and avoid displaying any evidence of wealth that might draw attention.
“Carjacking and highway robbery are serious problems in many parts of the border region and U.S. citizens have been murdered in such incidents. Most victims who complied with carjackers at these checkpoints have reported that they were not physically harmed. Incidents have occurred during the day and at night, and carjackers have used a variety of techniques, including bumping/moving vehicles to force them to stop and running vehicles off the road at high speeds. There are some indications that criminals have particularly targeted newer and larger vehicles, especially dark-colored SUVs. However, victims driving a variety of vehicles, from late model SUVs to old sedans have also been targeted. While violent incidents have occurred at all hours of the day and night on both modern toll (“cuotas”) highways and on secondary roads, they have occurred most frequently at night and on isolated roads. To reduce risk, we strongly urge you to travel between cities throughout Mexico only during daylight hours, to avoid isolated roads, and to use toll roads whenever possible. The Mexican government has deployed federal police and military personnel throughout the country as part of its efforts to combat the TCOs. U.S. citizens traveling on Mexican roads and highways may encounter government checkpoints, which are often staffed by military personnel or law enforcement personnel. TCOs have erected their own unauthorized checkpoints, and killed or abducted motorists who have failed to stop at them. You should cooperate at all checkpoints.”
For the complete advisory, visit the State Department travel advisory website.