By: Andrea De Ona
Mexico is a popular vacation destination for tourists, spanning from teenagers looking to party on spring break to grown-ups seeking adult-only retreat resorts. However, on August 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of State updated a Mexico travel warning that had been in place since December 2016, as gangs and drug cartels increase their violence and threaten a number of popular tourist destinations. The official travel warning cautions: “U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery in various Mexican states.” However, the Department stated that there is no evidence to show Americans have been targeted due to their nationality.
The advisory cautions citizens of the U.S. to avoid certain locations in Mexico due to increased criminal activity. The Department of State listed Mexico’s thirty-one states and one federal district on their website, assessing each location for the risk of danger. The Department also cautioned that even if there is no advisory in effect in a certain state, citizens should still exercise caution throughout all of Mexico. Areas such as Baja California Sur, where the popular tourist destination Cabo San Lucas is, and Quintana Roo, where Cancun and Riviera Maya are located, both experienced an increase in homicide rates comparable to 2016. Although the State Department does specifically say that most of the homicides are the result of targeted criminal assassinations, territory battles have resulted in violent crime in tourist areas where bystanders have been injured during daylight hours.
There are three forms of kidnappings in Mexico: traditional kidnapping, express kidnapping, and virtual kidnapping. The Department describes each and warns that recently, hotel guests have been targets of virtual kidnapping. Virtual kidnappings are defined by the State Department as “an extortion-by-deception scheme where a victim is contacted by phone and coerced by threats of violence to provide phone numbers of family and friends, and then isolated until the ransom is paid.”
However, the Mexican government has deployed federal police and military personal to combat organized criminal groups and reduce threats throughout the country. The Department warns that if citizens are traveling on Mexican roads and highways, they may encounter Mexican government personnel at checkpoints. However they also warn, “criminal organizations have erected their own unauthorized checkpoints, at times wearing police and military uniforms, and have killed or abducted motorists who have failed to stop at them. You should cooperate at all checkpoints.”
The updated travel advisory also comes on the heels of another advisory by the State Department regarding Mexico in July 2017. The advisory warns of possible tainted or low quality alcohol being served in Mexico resorts that can lead to illness or blackouts. For some, the advisories do not change any of upcoming plans to travel to Mexico. Fox8 in Cleveland interviewed U.S. citizens who decided not to cancel their plans and citizens who had just returned from Mexico. The citizen returning from Mexico specified, ‘“I was just there, the last week of July, I was in a different area of Mexico; I was in Cabo San Lucas. We did leave the resort; we were in the heart of town. I never felt unsafe.’” With this updated travel warning to Mexico, citizens should be careful and inquire into the State Department’s warnings of the risks in that country in order to protect themselves from any unnecessary danger. The government asks to head its warning and consider very carefully whether or not traveling to Mexico at all. However, in the end, the State Department warns that no matter where citizens travel and no matter whether or not they feel safe, they should always be aware of their surroundings and circumstances.