Mexico Travel Warning based on Mexico Lindo y Querido by Martha Silva on Flickr
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Mexico: USA updates travel warning – risk of kidnapping, carjacking, violence highlighted

The US State Department has updated the travel warning for Mexico. The report notes that millions of Americans safely visit Mexico every year and many of the tourist destinations are safe. The Mexican authorities are spending a lot of time, money and resources tackling the crime rate and 12 of the 31 states do not have travel warnings in place. However, protests, violence and crime can occur without warning anywhere. At the start of the year a group of Canadian tourists were caught up in a protest on their way to visit Palenque, a major tourist destination in Chiapas, removed from their bus and told they were hostages.

If you are visiting Mexico for work or pleasure, we highly recommend reading the travel warning in full. In many regions it is suggested you avoid travelling at night – it is believed the two Australian surfers kidnapped and murdered in Sinaloa drove through the state at night. Roads and highways that are particularly problematic are mentioned in the travel warning. Increased restrictions apply for US government personnel.

List of states with areas where deferring all non-essential travel is recommended –

  • Chihuahua
  • Coahuila
  • Colima
  • Estado de Mexico
  • Guerrero
  • Jalisco
  • Michoacán
  • Morelos
  • Nayarit
  • Sinaloa
  • Sonora
  • Tamaulipas

The following extracts are from the State Department page. Please click here to read the travel warning in full.

Mexico Travel Warning – January 19th 2016

Kidnappings in Mexico have included traditional, “express,” and “virtual” kidnappings. Victims of traditional kidnappings are physically abducted and held captive until a ransom is paid for release. “Express” kidnappings are those in which a victim is abducted for a short time and forced to withdraw money, usually from an ATM, then released. A “virtual” kidnapping is an extortion-by-deception scheme wherein a victim is contacted by phone and convinced to isolate themselves from family and friends until a ransom is paid. The victim is coerced (by threat of violence) to remain isolated and to provide phone numbers for the victim’s family or loved ones. The victim’s family is then contacted and a ransom for the “kidnapped” extracted. Recently, some travelers to Mexico staying at hotels as guests have been targets of such “virtual” kidnapping schemes.

Of particular safety concern are casinos, sports books, or other gambling establishments, and adult entertainment establishments. U.S. government personnel are specifically prohibited from patronizing these establishments in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit.

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’ demands have reported that they were not physically harmed. Carjackers have shot at vehicles that have attempted to flee. Incidents have occurred during the day and at night, and carjackers have used a variety of techniques, including roadblocks, bumping/moving vehicles to force them to stop, and running vehicles off the road at high speeds. There are indications that criminals target newer and larger vehicles, especially dark-colored SUVs. However, even drivers of old sedans and buses coming from the United States have been targeted. While violent incidents can occur anywhere and at any time, they most frequently occur at night and on isolated roads. To reduce risk when traveling by road, we strongly urge you to travel between cities throughout Mexico only during daylight hours, to avoid isolated roads, and to use toll roads (“cuotas”) whenever possible.  U.S. government personnel are prohibited from intercity travel after dark in many areas of Mexico.  In remote areas, cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent.

Guerrero: Acapulco, Ixtapa, Taxco and Zihuatanejo are major cities/travel destinations in Guerrero. 

Defer non-essential travel to all parts of the state, except for the cities of Acapulco, Ixtapa, and Zihuatanejo. Travel to Acapulco and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo only by air or cruise ship, exercise caution, and remain in tourist areas. Travel in and out of Acapulco by air and cruise ship is permitted for U.S. government personnel. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling within Guerrero state by land, including via the 95D toll road (“cuota”) to/from Mexico City and Acapulco, as well as highway 200 between Acapulco and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo. In Acapulco, defer non-essential travel to areas further than two blocks inland of the Costera Miguel Aleman Boulevard, which parallels the popular beach areas. Lodging for U.S. government personnel is limited to the hotel zone (“zona hotelera”) of Acapulco, beginning from the Krystal Beach Acapulco hotel in the north and going south through Puerto Marquez, including the Playa Diamante area and ending at The Resort at Mundo Imperial hotel. In general, the popular tourist area of Diamante, just south of the city, has been less affected by violence. Any activity outside the hotel zone for U.S. government personnel is limited to the coastal area from La Quebrada to the beginning of the hotel zone and only during daylight hours. The state of Guerrero was the most violent state in Mexico in 2013, with 2,087 homicides and 207 reported cases of kidnapping, according to the Mexican Secretariado Ejecutivo Nacional de Seguridad Publica. Self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable.

Tamaulipas: Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Tampico are major cities in Tamaulipas

Defer all non-essential travel to the state of Tamaulipas. Throughout the state violent crime, including homicide, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, extortion, and sexual assault, pose significant safety risks. State and municipal law enforcement capacity is limited to nonexistent in many parts of Tamaulipas. Violent conflicts between rival criminal elements and/or the Mexican military can occur in all parts of the region and at all times of the day. Violent criminal activity occurs more frequently along the northern border. Organized criminal groups sometimes target public and private passenger buses traveling through Tamaulipas. These groups sometimes take all passengers hostage and demand ransom payments. In Tamaulipas, U.S. government employees are subject to movement restrictions and a curfew between midnight and 6 a.m. Matamoros, Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, and Ciudad Victoria have experienced numerous gun battles and attacks with explosive devices in the past year. The number of reported kidnappings in Tamaulipas is among the highest in Mexico. Please see above for general conditions for travel in Mexico.


Image: Mexico Travel Warning based on Mexico Lindo y Querido by Martha Silva on Flickr

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