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State Department Issues Mexico Travel Warning

Following a surge in drug-related violence in Mexico, the State Department has issued a travel warning urging citizens to delay unnecessary travel to the border areas in the northern regions of the country. These areas are increasingly consumed in a brutal drug war that has claimed numerous innocent lives.

The travel warning is a bit light on specific recommendations, but does offer a thorough outline of the locations and types of violence people have encountered. I’m hesitant to overhype the gruesome details, but it’s worth reading for anyone planning to travel to these areas:

Large firefights have taken place in towns and cities across Mexico, but occur mostly in northern Mexico, including Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Chihuahua City, Nogales, Matamoros, Reynosa and Monterrey.  During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area.  The U.S. Mission in Mexico currently restricts its U.S. government employees’ travel within the state of Durango, the northwest quadrant of the state of Chihuahua and an area southeast of Ciudad Juarez, and all parts of the state of Coahuila south of Mexican Highways 25 and 22 and the Alamos River.  This restriction was implemented in light of a recent increase in assaults, murders, and kidnappings in those three states.

A number of areas along the border continue to experience a rapid growth in crime.  Robberies, homicides, petty thefts, and carjackings have all increased over the last year across Mexico, with notable spikes in Chihuahua, Sinaloa, and northern Baja California.  Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana and Nogales are among the cities that have experienced public shootouts during daylight hours in shopping centers and other public venues.  Criminals have followed and harassed U.S. citizens traveling in their vehicles in border areas including Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, and Tijuana.  Travelers on the highways between Monterrey and other parts of Mexico to the United States (notably through Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros) have been targeted for robbery and violence and have also inadvertently been caught in incidents of gunfire between criminals and Mexican law enforcement.  Such incidents are more likely to occur at night but may occur at any time.

The situation in the state of Chihuahua, specifically Ciudad Juarez, is of special concern. The U.S. Consulate General recommends that American citizens defer non-essential travel to the Guadalupe Bravo area southeast of Ciudad Juarez and to the northwest quarter of the state of  Chihuahua including the city of Nuevo Casas Grandes and surrounding communities. From the United States, these areas are often reached through the Columbus, NM; and Fabens and Fort Hancock, TX, ports of entry.  In both areas, American citizens have been victims of drug-related violence.

The last thing I ever want to do is scare people away from traveling, but this situation sounds pretty grave, and seems to be getting worse. I would strongly suggest reconsidering any travel to the affected areas until things calm down.

I would also point out that Mexico is a very large country (it’s over 2,000 miles from Cancun to Juarez, for example), and the State Department is not discouraging travel to the entire country.

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