The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens traveling to and living in Mexico about the security situation in Mexico, and to advise that the authorized departure of family members of U.S. government personnel from U.S. Consulates in the northern Mexico border cities of Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo
, Monterrey and Matamoros has been extended. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Mexico dated April 12, 2010 to note the extension of authorized departure and to update guidance on security conditions and crime.
Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year. This includes tens of thousands who cross the border every day for study, tourism or business and at least one million U.S. citizens who live in Mexico. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major drug trafficking routes. Nevertheless, crime and violence are serious problems. While most victims of violence are Mexican citizens associated with criminal activity, the security situation poses serious risks for U.S. citizens as well.
It is imperative that U.S. citizens understand the risks involved in travel to Mexico, how best to avoid dangerous situations, and who to contact if one becomes a victim of crime or violence. Common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where criminal activity might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable. U.S. citizen victims of crime in Mexico are urged to contact the consular section of the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy for advice and assistance. Contact information is provided at the end of this message.
Since 2006, the Mexican government has engaged in an extensive effort to combat drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs). Mexican DTOs, meanwhile, have been engaged in a vicious struggle with each other for control of trafficking routes. In order to combat violence, the government of Mexico has deployed military troops throughout the country. U.S. citizens should expect to encounter military and other law enforcement checkpoints when traveling in Mexico and are urged to cooperate fully. In confrontations with the Mexican army and police, DTOs have employed automatic weapons and grenades. In some cases, assailants have worn full or partial police or military uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles. According to published reports, 22,700 people have been killed in narcotics-related violence since 2006. The great majority of those killed have been members of DTOs. However, innocent bystanders have been killed in shootouts between DTOs and Mexican law enforcement.
Recent violent attacks and persistent security concerns have prompted the U.S. Embassy to urge U.S. citizens to defer unnecessary travel to Michoacán and Tamaulipas, to parts of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango, and Coahuila, (see details below) and to advise U.S. citizens residing or traveling in those areas to exercise extreme caution.
Violence Along the U.S.-Mexico Border
Much of the country’s narcotics-related violence has occurred in the northern border region. For example, since 2006, three times as many people have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez, in the state of Chihuahua, across from El Paso, Texas, than in any other city in Mexico. More than half of all Americans killed in Mexico in FY 2009 whose deaths were reported to the U.S. Embassy were killed in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana.
Since 2006, large firefights have taken place in towns and cities in many parts of Mexico, often in broad daylight on streets and other public venues. Such firefights have occurred mostly in northern Mexico, including Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Chihuahua City, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Piedras Negras, Reynosa, Matamoros and Monterrey. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area.
The situation in northern Mexico remains fluid; the location and timing of future armed engagements cannot be predicted. U.S. citizens are urged to exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the region, particularly in those areas specifically mentioned in this Travel Warning.
Crime and Violence Throughout Mexico
Although narcotics-related crime is a particular concern along Mexico’s northern border, violence has occurred throughout the country, including in areas frequented by American tourists. U.S. citizens traveling in Mexico should exercise caution in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Bystanders have been injured or killed in violent attacks in cities across the country, demonstrating the heightened risk of violence in public places. In recent years, dozens of U.S. citizens living in Mexico have been kidnapped and most of their cases remain unsolved.
One of Mexico’s most powerful DTOs is based in the state of Sinaloa. Since 2006, more homicides have occurred in the state’s capital city of Culiacan than in any other city in Mexico, with the exception of Ciudad Juarez. Furthermore, the city of Mazatlan has experienced a recent increase in violent crime, with more murders in the first quarter of 2010 than in all of 2009. U.S. citizens should defer unnecessary travel to Culiacan and exercise extreme caution when visiting the rest of the state.
U.S. citizens who believe they are being targeted for kidnapping or other crimes should notify Mexican law enforcement officials and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City or the nearest U.S. consulate as soon as possible. Any U.S. visitor who suspects they are a target should consider returning to the United States immediately. U.S. citizens should be aware that many cases of violent crime are never resolved by Mexican law enforcement, and the U.S. government has no authority to investigate crimes committed in Mexico.
U.S. citizens should make every attempt to travel on main roads during daylight hours, particularly the toll (“cuota”) roads, which generally are more secure. When warranted, the U.S. Embassy and consulates advise their employees as well as private U.S. citizens to avoid certain areas, abstain from driving on certain roads because of dangerous conditions or criminal activity, or recommend driving during daylight hours only. When this happens, the Embassy or the affected consulate will alert the local U.S. citizen Warden network and post the information on their respective websites, indicating the nature of the concern and the expected time period for which the restriction will remain in place.
U.S. citizen visitors are encouraged to stay in the well-known tourist areas. Travelers should leave their itinerary with a friend or family member not traveling with them, avoid traveling alone, and check with their cellular provider prior to departure to confirm that their cell phone is capable of roaming on GSM or 3G international networks. Cell phone coverage in isolated parts of Mexico, for example, the Copper Canyon, is spotty or non-existent.
Do not display expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items. Travelers to remote or isolated venues should be aware that they may be distant from appropriate medical, law enforcement, and consular services in an emergency situation.
U.S. citizens applying for passports or requesting other fee-based services from consulates or the Embassy are encouraged to make arrangements to pay for those services using a non-cash method. U.S. citizens should be alert for credit card fraud, especially outside major commercial establishments.
Demonstrations and Large Public Gatherings
Demonstrations occur frequently throughout Mexico and usually are peaceful. However, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate to violence unexpectedly. Violent demonstrations have resulted in deaths, including that of an American citizen in Oaxaca in 2006. During demonstrations or law enforcement operations, U.S. citizens are advised to remain in their homes or hotels, avoid large crowds, and avoid the downtown and surrounding areas.
As is always the case in any large gathering, U.S. citizens should remain alert to their surroundings.
For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens in Mexico, please contact the U.S. Embassy or the closest U.S. Consulate. The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-52-55-5080-2000; telephone within Mexico City: 5080-2000; telephone long distance within Mexico 01-55-5080-2000. You may also contact the Embassy by e-mail at: ACSMexicoCity@state.gov The Embassy’s internet address is http://www.usembassy-mexico.gov/.