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State Department warns U.S. citizens of travel to Mexico

MEXICO CITY — Following the tainted and illicit alcohol scares from earlier this summer, Americans have another reason to stay away from Mexico — the U.S. State Department says so. A new Travel Advisory has been issued for Mexico due to violent crimes including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery in several Mexican states.

The warning, issued Tuesday, forbids U.S. government personnel and their families from personal travel to all “non-essential” areas, along with a ban from adult clubs and gambling establishments in Cohuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Colima, and Nayarit. This new alert replaces a Travel Warning issued last December.

Gangs involved in the narcotics trafficking are having gun battles taking place “on streets and in public places during broad daylight,” according to the Travel Warning. However, the advisory says there is no evidence those involved in the drug war are targeting American citizens based on their nationality.

The State Department says there are three basic ways kidnappings happen in Mexico:

In traditional kidnappings, victims are abducted and held until a ransom is paid for their release.

Express kidnappings involve victims being abducted and taken to an ATM machine and forced to withdraw money in exchange for their release.

Mexico is also seeing virtual kidnappings, an extortion-by-deception scheme where victims are hotel guests, contacted by phone and threatened into giving phone numbers for friends & family, and then isolated until a ransom is paid.

Highway robbery, literally, and carjackings are also said to be a high risk right now. U.S. Government officials are not allowed to drive to or from the border from inside Mexico during the warning; cell phone use is limited, especially in remote areas, and carjackings are often violent, if not fatal. Criminals are said to target newer and larger vehicles, but buses and older model sedans traveling from the U.S. have also been targets for carjackers, who do everything from creating road blocks to hitting cars and running victims off the road.

Along with an assessment for each state in Mexico and specifics on advisory for each area, the department warns U.S. citizens about the state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Tulum, and the rise in murders compared to last year, according to Government of Mexico statistics. Most are said to be between rival criminal gangs, but innocent bystanders have been killed in shootings.

The State Department has outlined an assessment for each state in Mexico, with specifics on the advisory for each area. Travelers are urged to use caution in all areas of Mexico, even if no advisory is in effect for a particular area.