The Texas Department of Public Safety has issued a warning for the state’s residents in response to recent incidents.
“Drug cartel violence and other criminal activity represent a significant safety threat to anyone who crosses into Mexico right now,” Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said in a statement. “We have a duty to inform the public about safety, travel risks, and threats. Based on the volatile nature of cartel activity and the violence we are seeing there, we are urging individuals to avoid travel to Mexico at this time.”
It’s important to know that the U.S. State Department has issued a number of advisories for U.S. citizens traveling to various Mexican states. Americans considering travel to all but two of the states in Mexico should be aware of renewed and increased warnings as violent crime and kidnapping rates increase across Mexico, the State Department cautions.
“Violent crime — such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery — is widespread and common in Mexico,” the State Department explains.
The warnings from both the Texas Department of Public Safety and U.S. State Department come just ahead of what is expected to be a busy spring break and Easter travel season in Mexico.
“The Texas Department of Public Safety understands many people do travel to Mexico without incident, but the serious risks cannot be ignored,” the agency explains. “All travelers are encouraged to carefully research any planned trips and, again, consider postponing or canceling travel to Mexico at this time.”
Why The Warnings Are Necessary
The warning from the Texas Department of Public Safety and reminder from the State Department come after two recent incidents involving Americans in Mexico.
In one incident, four Americans who had traveled to Mexico so one could have a medical procedure were shot at and kidnapped while in the city of Matamoros in Tamaulipas state, just south of Brownsville, Texas. Two of them were killed in the gunfire, which allegedly was between rival cartel groups. The other two, one of whom was also shot, have now been returned to the U.S., according to NBC News.
Since then, six people have been arrested in connection to 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’s also important to note that two sisters from Texas and a friend are still missing in Mexico after they crossed the border on February 24 to sell clothes at a flea market, according to the Associated Press.
The women, who are from Peñitas, Texas, near McAllen, were traveling to the city of Montemorelos in Mexico’s Nuevo Leon state. 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 U.S. State Department explains.
Indeed, Tamaulipas state is one of six Mexican states that was given a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory due to high levels of crime and kidnapping.
“Organized crime activity — including gun battles, murder, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, forced disappearances, extortion, and sexual assault — is common along the northern border and in Ciudad Victoria,” the State Department explains. “Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses, as well as private automobiles traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers and demanding ransom payments.”
Safety In Mexico
While the Texas Department of Public Safety urges Texans to avoid travel to Mexico, it should be noted that the State Department advises U.S. citizens to not travel to five states in Mexico due to increasing levels of crime and kidnapping.
Those states are Colima (where Manzanillo is located), Michoacan, Sinaloa (where Mazatlán is located), Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas (home to Zacatecas City).
However, rather than warning not to visit, the State Department advises U.S. citizens to “exercise increased caution when traveling to” 17 areas of Mexico, primarily due to crime rates but also the threat of kidnapping in some places. Many of those locations 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 advisories for all of Mexico’s states at the State Department’s Mexico Travel Advisory.
Know Before You Go
If you decide to travel to Mexico, the State Department offers some guidance.
“Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos,” the State Department recommends. “Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry. Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.”
U.S. citizens with an emergency are also reminded that they can call the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico for help, and that they should make a note of U.S. Embassy & Consulates emergency contacts in the area where they will be traveling.
Finally, the State Department recommends international travelers enroll in STEP, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Enrolling in STEP enables U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to register their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate. That way, travelers can receive important information and updates from the embassy about safety conditions in their destination country. Enrolling in STEP also makes it easy for the U.S. Embassy to contact travelers in the event of an emergency and for family and friends to contact travelers in case of an emergency.
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