On Feb. 8, the U.S. Department of State updated its April travel warning on Mexico. The government points out that while 150,000 people cross the border daily for business, study or tourism and the Mexican government makes "a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens," the effort by the Mexican government to counter the Transnational Criminal Organizations has resulted in increased crime and violence. "U.S. citizens have fallen victim to TCO activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery," the Department explains.
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.
In addition to gun battles taking place in many cities, especially in the border region, the Department is particularly concerned about the rising number of kidnappings and disappearances. "We strongly advise you to lower your profile and avoid displaying any evidence of wealth that might draw attention," the statement said. "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."
Looking at specific states, where many manufacturers have operations, the advisory includes the following information:
Baja California (north): Tijuana is a major city/travel destination in the Northern portion of Baja California .You should exercise caution in the northern state of Baja California, particularly at night. Targeted TCO assassinations continue to take place in Baja California. Turf battles between criminal groups proliferated and resulted in numerous assassinations in areas of Tijuana frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured, have occurred during daylight hours throughout the city. In one such incident, an U.S. citizen was shot and seriously wounded. According to the Government of Mexico, as of August 2011, the citys murder rate was approximately 20 per 100,000. During 2011, 34 U.S. citizens were the victims of homicide in the state. In the majority of these cases, the killings appeared to be related to narcotics trafficking.
Chihuahua: Juarez and Chihuahua are the major cities/travel destinations in Chihuahua.You should defer non-essential travel to the state of Chihuahua. The situation in the state of Chihuahua, specifically Ciudad Juarez, is of special concern. Ciudad Juarez has one of the highest murder rates in Mexico. The Mexican government reports that more than 3,100 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez in 2010 and 1,933 were killed in 2011. Three persons associated with the Consulate General were murdered in March 2010. The state of Chihuahua is normally entered through Columbus, NM, and the El Paso, Fabens and Fort Hancock, TX, ports-of-entry. There have been incidents of narcotics-related violence in the vicinity of the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua.
Coahuila: You should defer non-essential travel to the state of Coahuila. The State of Coahuila continues to experience high rates of violent crimes and narcotics-related murders. TCOs continue to compete for territory and coveted border crossings to the United States. In August 2011, suspected members of TCOs and police exchange fire near a crowded soccer stadium in Torren causing panic. The city of Torren had a murder rate of more than 40 per 100,000 population between January and August of 2011. USG personnel may not frequent casinos, sport books, or other gambling establishments and adult entertainment establishments.
Nuevo Leon: Monterrey is a major city/travel destination in Nuevo Leon. You should defer non-essential travel to the state of Nuevo Leon, except the metropolitan area of Monterrey where you should exercise caution. The level of violence and insecurity in Monterrey has increased, illustrated by an attack on a popular local casino in August that resulted in 52 deaths. One U.S. citizen was injured in that incident. Local police and private patrols do not have the capacity to deter criminal elements or respond effectively to security incidents. As a result of a Department of State assessment of the overall security situation, on September 10, 2010, the Consulate General in Monterrey became a partially unaccompanied post with no minor dependents of USG personnel permitted. USG personnel serving at the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey may not frequent casinos, sport books, or other gambling establishments and may not travel outside the San Pedro municipal boundaries between midnight and 6 a.m. Although there have been no such incidents in 2011, in 2010 TCOs kidnapped guests out of reputable hotels in the downtown Monterrey area, blocking off adjoining streets to prevent law enforcement response. TCOs have also regularly attacked local government facilities, prisons and police stations, and engaged in public shootouts with the military and between themselves. TCOs have used vehicle born improvised explosive devices against military and law enforcement units. Pedestrians and innocent bystanders have been killed in these incidents.
San Luis Potosi: You should defer non-essential travel to the state of San Luis Potosi, except the city of San Luis Potosi where you should exercise caution. The entire stretch of highway 57D in San Luis Potosi and portions of the state east of highway 57D towards Tamaulipas are particularly dangerous. n February 2011, one U.S. government employee was killed and another wounded when they were attacked in their U.S. government vehicle on Highway 57 near Santa Maria del Rio. Cartel violence and highway lawlessness are a continuing security concern. USG personnel may not frequent casinos, sport books, or other gambling establishments and adult entertainment establishments.
Sinaloa: Mazatlan is a major city/travel destination in Sinaloa. You should defer non-essential travel to the state of Sinaloa except the city of Mazatlan where you should exercise caution particularly late at night and in the early morning. One of Mexico's most powerful TCOs is based in the state of Sinaloa. With the exception of Ciudad Juarez, since 2006 more homicides have occurred in the state's capital city of Culiacan than in any other city in Mexico. Travel off the toll roads in remote areas of Sinaloa is especially dangerous and should be avoided. In the last year, the city of Mazatlan has experienced a level of violence (primarily confrontations between TCOs) not seen before and incidents of violence are occurring more frequently in tourist areas. USG personnel are permitted to travel between the Mazatlan airport and the tourist areas only during daylight hours. We recommend that any other travel in Mazatlan be limited to the tourist areas (Zona Dorada and the historic town center). In 2010 there were over 300 narcotics-related murders within the city, compared to fewer than 100 in 2009. In the first seven months of 2011, there were 300 narcotics-related murders.
Sonora: Nogales and Puerto Peasco are the major cities/travel destinations in Sonora. You should defer non-essential travel between the city of Nogales and the cities of Sonoyta and Caborca (which area also includes the smaller cities of Saric, Tubutama, and Altar), defer non-essential travel to the eastern edge of the State of Sonora which borders the State of Chihuahua (all points along that border east of the northern city of Agua Prieta and the southern town of Alamos), defer non-essential travel within the state south of the city of Ciudad Obregon with the exception of travel to Alamos (traveling only during daylight hours and using only the Highway 15 toll road, aka cuota, and Sonora State Road 162), and exercise caution when visiting the coastal town of Puerto Peasco. Sonora is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades, and can be extremely dangerous for travelers. The region west of Nogales, east of Sonoyta, and from Caborca north, including the towns of Saric, Tubutama and Altar, and the eastern edge of Sonora bordering Chihuahua, are known centers of illegal activity. U.S. citizens visiting Puerto Peasco are urged to use the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing, in order to limit driving through Mexico, and to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours.
Tamaulipas: Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Tampico are the major cities/travel destinations in Tamaulipas. You should defer non-essential travel to the state of Tamaulipas. All USG employees are: prohibited from personal travel on Tamaulipas highways outside of Matamoros, Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo due to the risks posed by armed robbery and carjacking; may not frequent casinos and adult entertainment establishments within these cities; and in Matamoros are subject to a midnight to 6 a.m. curfew. Be aware of the risks posed by armed robbery and carjacking on state highways throughout Tamaulipas. In January 2011, a U.S. citizen was murdered in what appears to have been a failed carjacking attempt. While no highway routes through Tamaulipas are considered safe, many of the crimes reported to the U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros have taken place along the Matamoros-Tampico highway, particularly around San Fernando and the area north of Tampico.
Zacatecas:You should defer non-essential travel to the state of Zacatecas except the city of Zacatecas where you should exercise caution. The regions of the state bordering Durango and Coahuila as well as the cities of Fresnillo and Fresnillo-Sombrete and surrounding area are particularly dangerous. The northwestern portion of the state of Zacatecas has become notably dangerous and insecure. Robberies and carjackings are occurring with increased frequency and both local authorities and residents have reported a surge in observed TCO activity. This area is remote, and local authorities are unable to regularly patrol it or quickly respond to incidents that occur there. Gun battles between criminal groups and authorities occur in the area of the state bordering the state of Jalisco. There have also been reports of roadblocks and false checkpoints on highways between the states of Zacatecas and Jalisco. The city of Fresnillo, the area extending northwest from Fresnillo along Highway 45 (Fresnillo-Sombrete) between Highways 44 and 49, and highway 49 northwards from Fresnillo through Durango and in to Chihuahua are considered dangerous. Extreme caution should be taken when traveling in the remainder of the state. USG personnel may not frequent casinos, sport books, or other gambling establishments and adult entertainment establishments. USG personnel may not travel outside the City of Zacatecas after dark and must abide by a curfew of midnight to 6 a.m. within a secured venue.