By Linda Bentley | january 27, 2016

U.S. State Department updates travel warning for Mexico

Resort areas and tourist destinations generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that is reported in the border regions

WASHINGTON – On Jan. 19, The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs issued a new travel warning for Mexico, replacing the travel warning issued on May 5, 2015, cautioning U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain places in Mexico due to safety and security threats posed by organized crime groups.

Under its general warning, it stated U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery in various Mexican states.

Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism and business, including over 150,000 who cross the border every day, and the Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations.

The State Department claims there is no evidence organized crime groups have targeted U.S. visitors or residents based on their nationality, but points out resort areas and tourist destinations generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that is reported in the border regions or along major trafficking routes.

While many killed in organized crime-related violence were themselves involved in criminal activity, innocent people have also been killed.

In 2014, the number of U.S. citizens reported murdered in Mexico was 100 with 103 murdered in 2015.

Because there is no way to predict when or where gun battles between rival crime organizations may erupt, and many have occurred in broad daylight on streets and other public venues, the State Department recommends deferring travel to the areas specifically identified in the travel warning and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the other areas for which advisories are in effect.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to also lower their personal profiles and avoid displaying indicators of wealth such as expensive-looking jewelry, watches or cameras, while maintaining awareness of their surroundings and avoiding situations where they might become isolated or stand out as potential victims.

It calls out casinos, gambling facilities and adult entertainment establishments as particular safety concerns.

The Mexican government has deployed federal police and military throughout the country in an effort to combat organized crime and U.S. citizens may encounter government checkpoints.

However, criminal organizations have also erected their own unauthorized checkpoints and often man them wearing police and military uniforms.

Because motorists have been killed or abducted for failing to stop, the State Department urges travelers to cooperate at all checkpoints.

The advisory also provided information on security conditions in specific regions of Mexico with a state by state assessment.

The following assessment is for Arizona’s bordering state of Sonora, which it notes is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades and can be extremely dangerous for travelers.

Since Nogales, Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point), Hermosillo, and San Carlos are major cities/travel destinations in Sonora, it encouraged travelers throughout to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours.

More specifically, it recommended deferring all non-essential travel to 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, as these are known centers of illegal activity.

Travelers should also 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), and defer non-essential travel within the city of Ciudad Obregon and south of the city of Navojoa.

Travelers were also advised to exercise caution while transiting Vicam in southern Sonora due to roadblocks that can be instituted ad hoc by local indigenous and environmental groups. U.S. citizens visiting Puerto Peñasco should use the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing, and limit driving to daylight hours.