State Department increases travel risk for states in Mexico

Tijuana Mexico. U.S.                      Justin Sullivan

The U.S. Department of State issued a new "do not travel" advisory Wednesday that put 5 states of Mexico in the same category as countries like Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan. Mexico has 31 states, half of which are now under level 3 or 4 warnings.

Officials cite continued murder, kidnaping and carjacking related to gang activity as the primary reason for the warning.

Mexico as a whole has a level-two rating, "exercise increased caution" in the new four-level alert system, because of concerns about crime.

A statement from the Secretary of Tourism of Mexico (Sectur) reported that 80 percent of the more popular foreign tourist destinations such as Cancun, Riviera Maya, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta-Riviera Nayari and Mexico City were not included in the travel advisory. At least two resorts - Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and Acapulco - were in Gurrero.

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Tamaulipas has always been riven by turf wars between rival drug cartels, and Sinaloa is home to the cartel of the same name.

The government's Mexico Tourism Board said in a statement reported by Fox News, "Mexico's major worldwide tourism destinations have been explicitly listed as having no travel restrictions".

State Department personnel are not allowed to travel west of Eje Vial Juan Gabriel, and south of Boulevard Zaragoza, where the Juarez airport is located, after dark. Michoacan was so dominated by a drug cartel that vigilantes took up arms in 2013 to drive them out.

Clashes between rival drug gangs contributed to a record number of murders in Mexico previous year, according to official data, dealing a fresh blow to President Enrique Pena Nieto's pledge to bring gang violence under control with presidential elections due in July 2018.

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The U.S. government did note its employees are allowed to go to the seaside city of Manzanillo, Colima.

But an additional 11 Mexican states got a level-three warning, "reconsider travel".

While high-profile killings in certain hot spots have gotten media attention, Mexico's homicide rate is actually closer to the middle of the pack than the top, compared to other nations in the hemisphere.

Los Angeles Times reports that the advisory is the proof of the surging violence in Mexico, which has claimed almost 22,409 lives in 2017 - more than any year since 1997 when the government start releasing crime data.

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"We are encouraged, and this underscores our belief that Los Cabos is safe and secure", said Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board.

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