Tuesday, April 15, 2008

US State Dept. Issues Travel Alert For Mexico

Violent criminal activity fueled by a war between criminal organizations struggling for control of the lucrative narcotics trade continues along the U.S.-Mexico border. Attacks are aimed primarily at members of drug trafficking organizations, Mexican police forces, criminal justice officials, and journalists. However, foreign visitors and residents, including Americans, have been among the victims of homicides and kidnappings in the border region. In its effort to combat violence, the government of Mexico has deployed military troops in various parts of the country. U.S. citizens are urged to cooperate with official checkpoints when traveling on Mexican highways.

Recent Mexican army and police force conflicts with heavily-armed narcotics cartels have escalated to levels equivalent to military small-unit combat and have included use of machine guns and fragmentation grenades. Confrontations have taken place in numerous towns and cities in northern Mexico, including Tijuana in the Mexican state of Baja California, and Chihuahua City and Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua. The situation in northern Mexico remains very fluid; the location and timing of future armed engagements there cannot be predicted.

Armed robberies and carjackings, apparently unconnected to the narcotics-related violence, have increased in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. Dozens of U.S. citizens were kidnapped and/or murdered in Tijuana in 2007. Public shootouts have occurred during daylight hours near shopping areas.

Criminals are armed with a wide array of sophisticated weapons. In some cases, assailants have worn full or partial police or military uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles.

U.S. citizens residing and traveling in Mexico should exercise caution when in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Violence by criminal elements affects many parts of the country, urban and rural, including border areas. Though there is no evidence that U.S. citizens are specifically targeted, Mexican and foreign bystanders have been injured or killed in some violent attacks, demonstrating the heightened risk in public places. In recent years, dozens of U.S. citizens have been kidnapped in Mexico and many cases remain unresolved. Moreover, new cases of disappearances and kidnap-for-ransom continue to be reported.

No one can be considered immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors. U.S. citizens who believe they are being followed should notify Mexican officials as soon as possible. U.S. citizens should make every attempt to travel on main roads during daylight hours, particularly the toll (“cuota”) roads, which are generally more secure. It is preferable for U.S. citizens to stay in well-known tourist destinations and tourist areas of the cities with more adequate security, and provide an itinerary to a friend or family member not traveling with them. U.S. citizens should avoid traveling alone as a means to better ensure their safety.

Read the whole text: US State Dept. Travel Alert for Mexico

No comments: