Home Columnists State Department Tells US Citizens Not to Travel to Five Mexican States

State Department Tells US Citizens Not to Travel to Five Mexican States

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Sylvia Longmire IHSBy Sylvia Longmire
Contributor, In Homeland Security

On January 10, the U.S. State Department issued a new travel warning for Mexico. These warnings have been routine in the last several years, due to the ongoing drug-related violence in several parts of the country.

Most of the warnings advise U.S. citizens to take extra safety precautions or avoid driving in certain areas at certain times. In other cases, U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to specific places, while regular citizens are advised to avoid them. In this case, the State Department has advised all U.S. residents to avoid traveling to five Mexican states at all.

Violent Crimes Have Risen in Mexican States Mentioned in Travel Warning

The travel advisory stated, “Violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread.” As a result, the frequency of the attacks by criminal organizations in the states of Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacán, Guerrero and Tamaulipas has limited the U.S. government’s ability to “provide emergency services in many areas of Mexico.” Furthermore, Mexican authorities are capable of doing very little to protect any U.S. nationals traveling in these areas should any harm befall them.

Four of the five states mentioned have experienced high levels of criminal violence for many years, while Colima has seen its homicide rate skyrocket in only the last two years.

Drug Trafficking in Mexico Contributed to Travel Warning, Rise in Violent Crime

Tamaulipas spans much of Mexico’s border with Texas and is home to Los Zetas and the remaining fragments of the Gulf cartel embroiled in a civil war. Its northern border also forms part of the Rio Grande Valley — the busiest corridor for illegal immigrants from Central America.

The cities of Reynosa and Matamoros act as hubs for drug traffickers. They mostly smuggle marijuana bales across the Rio Grande into Texas, while Border Patrol agents are tied up chasing and apprehending migrants.

Sinaloa plays a huge role in the history of drug trafficking in Mexico and is the home state of jailed former drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán. Many drug war observers believe the rising crime levels in Sinaloa are due to the power vacuum that resulted from Guzmán’s capture and extradition to the United States.

Several cartels have fought for territory and influence in Guerrero and Michoacán for years. After the decline of La Familia Michoacana and the Knights Templar in the area, then came the powerhouse offshoot of the Sinaloa cartel, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG).

The “Do Not Travel” warning is considered a Level 4 threat by the State Department. While the Level 3 “Reconsider Travel” warning isn’t as dire, it should still be noted that 11 Mexican states have been given this designation, including the border states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila  and Nuevo Leon. The State Department has imposed strict restrictions on travel for U.S. government employees within these states that fall under the Level 3 designation.

Travel and Tourism Businesses Fear Warning Will Decrease Visitors to Mexico

Businesses in the travel and tourism sector tend to get nervous when these advisories are issued. They fear that U.S. citizens will cancel or avoid travel to Mexico due to the perception of potential danger, regardless of whether or not it actually exists.

The biggest tourist draws in Mexico are in Baja California Sur (Los Cabos), Quintana Roo (Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen), and Yucatan (Chichen Itza and Mérida). These areas are all under a Level 2 warning, which calls for tourists to exercise increased caution due to crime and to remain in safe tourist areas.

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