U.S. issues Mexico travel warning before spring break

Monday, 13 February 2012 11:30
airplane041311_optBY JOHN SOLTES

In its latest warning, the Department of State urges Americans to take precaution when traveling to Mexico. The travel advisory, issued Feb. 8, is the strongest statement from the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Americans, many of them young Spring Breakers, heading to the warm beaches of the country’s southern neighbor.

“The Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter (Transnational Criminal Organizations) which engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico,” the announcement reads. “The TCOs themselves are engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity.”

If traveling south of the border, the Department of State recommends the safer major tourist destinations, rather than the areas along major trafficking routes. The statistics show that Americans have been killed and kidnapped, in addition to becoming the victims of carjacking and highway robberies.

Between Dec. 1, 2006 and Sept. 30, 2011, the Mexican government estimates that more than 47,000 people have been killed in narcotics-related violence. Of these deaths, Americans represent a small, but not insignifcant, fraction. For example, in 2011, approximately 120 United States citizens were killed.

“Gun battles have occurred in broad daylight on streets and in other public venues, such as restaurants and clubs,” the advisory continues. “TCOs use stolen cars and trucks to create roadblocks on major thoroughfares, preventing the military and police from responding to criminal activity.”

The State Department recommends traveling only during the day and avoiding isolated roads.

Currently, there is no advisory in effect for Cabo San Lucas and Cancun, two popular travel destinations, or the capital of Mexico City. However, tourists should “exercise caution” in Tijuana and “defer non-essential travel” in the entire state of Chihuahua and Ciudad Juarez, which lies just south of El Paso, Texas.