The Texas Department of Public Safety issued a warning for state residents in response to recent incidents.
“Drug cartel violence and other criminal activity pose a significant threat to the safety of anyone entering Mexico at this time,” Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said in a statement. “We have a duty to inform the public about security, travel risks and threats. Based on the volatile nature of cartel activity and the violence we are seeing there, we urge individuals to avoid traveling to Mexico at this time.
It is important to know that the US Department of State has issued a number of travel advisories for US citizens traveling to various Mexican states. Americans planning to travel to all but two states in Mexico should be aware of renewed and heightened warnings as violent crime and kidnapping rates rise across Mexico, the State Department warns.
“Violent crimes — such as homicides, kidnappings, carjackings, and robberies — are widespread and common in Mexico,” the State Department explains.
The warnings from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the US State Department come just before what is expected to be a busy spring break and Easter travel season in Mexico.
“The Texas Department of Public Safety understands that many people travel to Mexico without incident, but the serious risks cannot be ignored,” the agency said. “All travelers are encouraged to research all planned travel carefully and, again, consider postponing or canceling travel to Mexico at this time.”
Why warnings are necessary
The Texas Department of Public Safety warning and State Department recall come after two recent incidents involving Americans in Mexico.
In one incident, four Americans who had traveled to Mexico for medical procedures were shot and kidnapped while in the town of Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, just south of Brownsville , in Texas. Two of them were killed in the gunfire, which is believed to have been between rival cartel groups. The other two, one of whom was also shot, have now been returned to the United States, according to NBC News.
Since then, six people have been arrested in connection with the incident, Tamaulipas Attorney General Irving Barrios Mojica said, according to CNN. A letter of apology was also issued by the Gulf Cartel, which is believed to be responsible for the kidnappings.
It is also important to note that two sisters from Texas and a friend are always missing in Mexico after crossing the border on February 24 to sell clothes at a flea market, according to the Associated Press.
The women, originally from Peñitas, Texas, near McAllen, were traveling to the town of Montemorelos in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. Montemorelos is about a 3 hour drive from the border.
The last time one of the women used a cellphone she was also in Tamaulipas, which is one of the most violent places in Mexico, the US State Department says.
Indeed, the state of Tamaulipas is one of six Mexican states to have received a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory due to high levels of crime and kidnappings.
“Organized crime activity – including shootings, murders, armed robberies, carjackings, kidnappings, enforced disappearances, extortion and sexual assaults – is common along the northern border and in Ciudad Victoria,” the State Department said. “Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses, as well as private cars traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers and demanding ransom payments.”
Safety in Mexico
While the Texas Department of Public Safety urges Texans to avoid traveling to Mexico, it should be noted that the Department of State is advising US citizens not to travel to five states in Mexico due to the increased levels of crime and kidnappings.
These states are Colima (where Manzanillo is located), Michoacan, Sinaloa (where Mazatlán is located), Tamaulipas and Zacatecas (home to the city of Zacatecas).
However, rather than warning not to visit, the State Department is advising US citizens to “use extra caution when visiting” 17 areas in Mexico, primarily due to crime rates but also the threat pick-up in some places. Many of these places are tourism hotspots such as Baja California Sur (where Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo and La Paz are located) and Quintana Roo (where Cancun, Cozumel, Tulum and Riviera Maya are located).
You can find travel advice for all states in Mexico on the State Department’s Travel Advisories.
Know before you go
If you decide to travel to Mexico, the State Department offers some advice.
“Exercise extra caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos,” the State Department recommends. “Don’t show signs of wealth, like wearing expensive watches or jewelry. Be extremely vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.
U.S. citizens are also reminded in the event of an emergency that they may call the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico for assistance and should note the Embassy’s emergency contacts. and U.S. consulates in the area they will be visiting.
Finally, the Department of State recommends that international travelers enroll in STEP, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Registration with STEP allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to register their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. This way, travelers can receive important information and updates from the embassy on security conditions in their destination country. Registering with STEP also makes it easy for the U.S. Embassy to contact travelers in an emergency and for family and friends to contact travelers in an emergency.
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