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U.S. State Department issues new “Do Not Travel Alert” for five Mexican states

January 10, 2018  |  Posted by: Michael Falzarano
U.S. State Department issues new “Do Not Travel Alert” for five Mexican states Victims of Cartel violence in Culiacán, Sinaloa Photo: Juan Carlos Cruz

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A revamped U.S. State Department system unveiled on Wednesday issued the sternest “do not travel” advisory, placing five Mexican states on the same level as war-torn regions such as Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

The latest actions taken by U.S. officials comes after Mexico experienced its highest levels of violence in a decade in 2017.

The new U.S. State Department platform urgently warned Americans not to travel to the Mexican states of Sinaloa, Guerrero, Colima, Michoacan, and Tamaulipas, which borders the United States.

All of the designated states on the “do not travel list” are cartel hotspots known for extensive drug trafficking routes, drug-crop cultivation areas and remain engulfed in widespread drug-related violence.

Americans currently visiting the designated states are strongly recommended to leave the regions “as soon as possible,” given the high levels of crime in these regions.

Prior travel warnings had discouraged travel to either all or part of those states. However, Wednesday’s  warnings designate the five states with a level 4 riskt threat, which is the highest level of potential danger posed to U.S citizens.

The U.S. State Department also upgraded an additional 11 Mexican states to a level 3 warning, which compels people to “reconsider travel” to the hotspots, Proceso reported.

Recent killing in the resort city of Cancun, where drug-related violence has continued to escalate

Mexico as a whole was placed on a list of countries that should be visited “with greater caution”.

The entire country currently remains at a level 2 rating.

Of Mexico’s 31 states, only half now remain under level 3 or 4 warnings.

The alert affirms: “Americans are advised to ‘exercise enhanced caution’ when traveling to Mexico where violent crimes such as murder, kidnapping, and robbery are “widespread.” The U.S. government also advises citizens to take precautions in bars, clubs, and casinos.

According to the U.S. News and World Report, states where U.S. citizens are urged to reconsider travel include the State of Mexico — Mexico’s most populated state, which includes most suburbs of Mexico City — Jalisco, home to the Puerto Vallarta resorts and the city of Guadalajara along with the lakeside expat community of Ajijic and Chapala.

The travel advisory did maintain “no restrictions on U.S. government employees for stays in … Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Chapala, and Ajijic.”

Mexico’s federal tourism ministry did not respond to comment on the new warnings.

The state of Baja California Sur has suffered a wave of violence for months.

Most of northern Mexico, including the border states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Sonora as well as Durango, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi, remain under level 3 warnings.

Some of the states have long been off limits for U.S. government employees. Last year, the State Department extended a total ban on personal travel by U.S. government personnel to Guerrero.

U.S. government personnel were previously allowed to fly to the resort of Ixtapa, the only location in Guerrero where they had been allowed to go. Personal travel by land and to the resort city of Acapulco had already been prohibited.

The northern border state of Tamaulipas has been overwhelmed by turf wars between rival fragmenting drug cartels, while Sinaloa is home to a declining Sinaloa Federation, which has been weakened by infighting following the arrest and extradition of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Michoacan was so ravaged by the Knights Templar drug cartel, citizens took up arms in 2013, forming armed vigilante groups to force them out due to the inaction of federal and state authorities.

The rapid growth of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel has directly precipitated a surge in the murder rate in Colima in recent years.

Police in the resort city of Los Cabos recently discovered the body of the son of a high ranking security official

Figures released by the Mexican government in first 11 months of 2017 shows Colima now boasts the highest homicide rate in Mexico, with 83.3 killings per 100,000 residents.

Baja California Sur, which is home to the twin resorts of Los Cabos, had the second-highest homicide rate — 61.6 per 100,000.

Despite raging gunbattles and drug-related homicides in recent months, the state remains at a level 2 advisory, urging U.S. citizens to “exercise increased caution.”

The murder rate in the resort city of Los Cabos rose by an astonishing 2000% between 2014 and 2017.

Notwithstanding the rising levels of violence, Los Cabos still experienced a 16 percent increase in tourism arrivals and an 18 percent rise in hotel occupancy in 2017, said Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board.

Esponda said local officials and tourism operators are investing in heightened security measures, including camera systems and the construction of a new base to house a battalion of Mexico’s battle-hardened marines, who are considered the most effective security force against the heavily armed drug cartels.

“We are going to keep working very hard in 2018 to make sure that Los Cabos continues as a safe destination,” Esponda said.

Prior to the Wednesday’s travel alert, Mexico’s Tourism Secretary Enrique De la Madrid spoke of the importance and hurdles in curbing the escalating violence in the resort sectors.

“In my opinion, the most important challenge we have in the tourism sector are crime events occurring where they didn’t before, for example in Cancun, La Paz, and Los Cabos.”

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