A new U.S. Department of State travel warning for travel to Mexico – was posted on the travel.state.gov website Feb. 8 with a “strong caution” against “nonessential travel to areas within 16 of Mexico’s 31 states” due to a rise in Mexico’s ongoing drug war and concerns about terrorists lurking across the U.S. boarders with Mexico. In fact, National Public Radio (NPR) stated that the Mexican drug wars have gotten so bad that the Mexican people are out on strike – not because they need better wages, but because of crime that’s nearly shut down the country’s tourism industry. In turn, NPR reported how locals and tourists have been “extorted, kidnapped and intimidated by local gangs.”
War going on near U.S. boarders
Moreover, NPR reported that “as Mexico's drug war drags on, and the government cracks down on narcotics trafficking, there's been a spike across the country in kidnapping, car theft and extortion.
Manuel Lozano Hernandez, a veteran educator in the Acapulco public schools, says the teachers are publicly fighting a problem that's plaguing taxi drivers, shopkeepers, restaurant owners and even street vendors in Acapulco.
"I believe that this fight that the teachers are making is a defining moment, because having been a teacher for 32 years, I'm convinced that teachers have their finger on the pulse of what's happening in every house, every neighborhood, every street, and every family. Thus, this issue is very important," he says.
Acapulco on fire from drug war
Moreover, NPR reported that “longtime residents of Acapulco say crime in what used to be one of Mexico's leading tourist resorts is out of control. There have been shootouts by heavily armed gunmen in front of beach hotels. Several women were decapitated this year at the start of the Semana Santa holiday, Mexico's big spring break. As in many other drug-plagued Mexican cities, federal police and soldiers in ski masks patrol the streets in armored convoys.”
Also, one local college student told NPR that “the recent crime wave is like a psychosis that's gripped Acapulco. A waiter says violent crime is crushing the economy.”
In turn, millions of U.S. high school and college students are still planning their “awesome Mexico Spring Break” adventures, stated a tourism marketing brochure that’s appearing at colleges in Oregon and other parts of the country with the Mexican Tourism Board trying to push back from what’s becoming a tourism nightmare due to the continuing drug wars south of the boarder.
Mexico tourism officials fight back
According to a statement in the Feb. 13 edition of Travel Weekly, the Mexican government is now responding to the recently revised U.S. State Department travel warnings for those Americans considering a vacation down in one of Mexico’s many popular spring break destinations.
“The Mexico Tourism Board has long advocated for travel advisories which abide by three key tenants: content, clarity and specificity,” stated Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete, head of the Mexico Tourism Board in the Feb. 13 edition of Travel Weekly.
In turn, Lopez-Negrete said the “revised U.S. State Department travel advisory regarding Mexico adheres to these principles and should serve as a model for the rest of the world.”
Mexico warning zones highlighted
At the same time, Travel Weekly noted that “the new, more carefully worded warning provides a state-by-state security assessment, listing specific cities, highways and border areas considered unsafe for travel and clearly indicating which cities and states are considered safe for travel and do not fall within the warning zone.”
For instance, the State Department website – that features this new Feb. 8 travel warning for travel to Mexico – includes this statement: “Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes.”
Also, Travel Weekly reviewed the new State Department advisory and offered this view: “Travelers are advised to stay within the tourist areas of Acapulco, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo in Guerro and to avoid the northwest and south. Mazatlan visitors should stay within the Zona Dorada and historical town center (the state of Sinaloa is in the center of cartel drug war activity). Caution also is advised in Monterrey, where travel through much of the state of Nuevo Leon is not recommended.”
Thus, with millions of Americans visiting Mexico each year, where to go or not go has now become an issue, added the travel publication.
State Department’s Mexico warnings
The State Department’s warning about travel to Mexico being as serious as a heart attack, with previous government warnings covering general country conditions that point to the Mexican government’s drug war death toll figure of “more than 47,500.” Also, numerous Mexican media outlets and many drug war observers believe this is a conservative estimate, “placing the number closer to 53,000 drug war-related deaths as of the end of 2011.
Under the heading of “general conditions,” the State Department website states how “millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) have targeted U.S. visitors and residents based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes.”
Nevertheless, the State Department is most serious when stating that “U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter TCOs which engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico. The TCOs themselves are engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity. As a result, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country and can occur anywhere. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to TCO activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery.”
Real terror down in Mexico
According to the most recent homicide figures published by the Mexican government, “47,515 people were killed in narcotics-related violence in Mexico between December 1, 2006 and September 30, 2011, with 12,903 narcotics-related homicides in the first nine months of 2011 alone. While most of those killed in narcotics-related violence have been members of TCOs, innocent persons have also been killed. The number of U.S. citizens reported to the Department of State as murdered in Mexico increased from 35 in 2007 to 120 in 2011,” added the State Department website.
For instance, the State Department reports “gun battles between rival TCOs or with Mexican authorities have taken place in towns and cities in many parts of Mexico, especially in the border region. Gun battles have occurred in broad daylight on streets and in other public venues, such as restaurants and clubs. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area. TCOs use stolen cars and trucks to create roadblocks on major thoroughfares, preventing the military and police from responding to criminal activity. The location and timing of future armed engagements is unpredictable. We recommend that you defer travel to the areas indicated in this Travel Warning and to exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the northern border region.”
Also, the State Department reports a “rising number of kidnappings and disappearances throughout Mexico is of particular concern. Both local and expatriate communities have been victimized. In addition, local police have been implicated in some of these incidents. We strongly advise you to lower your profile and avoid displaying any evidence of wealth that might draw attention.”
For more information on security issues in Mexico, phone the U.S. State Department at 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 001-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). U.S. citizens traveling or residing overseas are encouraged to enroll with the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens in Mexico, please contact the U.S. Embassy or the closest U.S. Consulate (see list below). The numbers provided below for the Embassy and Consulates are available around the clock.
Image source of dark clouds over the famed Mexico archaeological sites at “Chichen-Itza” – considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World – now comes under new U.S. State Department warnings for Americans traveling to Mexico due to increased “drug war violence.” Photo courtesy Wikipedia