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Travel Warning:
Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens: The Security Situation in Mexico 2013 

On July 12, 2013, the U.S. Department of State announced the following message:

The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens about the security situation in Mexico. General information on the overall security situation is provided immediately below. For information on security conditions in specific regions of Mexico, which can vary, travelers should reference the state-by-state assessments further below.

This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Mexico dated November 20, 2012 to consolidate and update information about the security situation and to advise the public of additional restrictions on the travel of U.S. government (USG) personnel.

Mexico map

General Conditions:

Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day. More than 20 million U.S. citizens visited Mexico in 2012. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) have targeted U.S. visitors and residents based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that is reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes.

Nevertheless, U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter TCOs which engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico. The TCOs themselves are engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity. Crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to criminal activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery. 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 was 113 in 2011 and 71 in 2012.

Gun battles between rival TCOs or with Mexican authorities have taken place in towns and cities in many parts of Mexico, especially in the border region. Gun battles have occurred in broad daylight on streets and in other public venues, such as restaurants and clubs. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area. TCOs have used stolen cars, buses and trucks to create roadblocks on major thoroughfares, preventing the military and police from responding to criminal activity. The location and timing of future armed engagements is unpredictable. We recommend that you defer travel to the areas indicated in this Travel Warning and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the northern border region.

The number of kidnappings and disappearances throughout Mexico is of particular concern. Both local and expatriate communities have been victimized. In addition, local police have been implicated in some of these incidents. We strongly advise you to lower your profile and avoid displaying any evidence of wealth that might draw attention.  

Carjacking and highway robbery are serious problems in many parts of the border region, and U.S. citizens have been murdered in such incidents. Most victims who complied with carjackers at these checkpoints have reported that they were not physically harmed. Carjackers have shot at vehicles that fail to stop at checkpoints. Incidents have occurred during the day and at night, and carjackers have used a variety of techniques, including bumping/moving vehicles to force them to stop and running vehicles off the road at high speeds. There are some indications that criminals have particularly targeted newer and larger vehicles, especially dark-colored SUVs. However, victims driving a variety of vehicles, from late model SUVs to old sedans have also been targeted. While violent incidents have occurred at all hours of the day and night on both modern toll highways ("cuotas") and on secondary roads, they have occurred most frequently at night and on isolated roads. To reduce risk, if absolutely necessary to travel by road, we strongly urge you to travel between cities throughout Mexico only during daylight hours, to avoid isolated roads, and to use toll roads whenever possible. The Mexican government has deployed federal police and military personnel throughout the country as part of its efforts to combat the TCOs. U.S. citizens traveling on Mexican roads and highways may encounter government checkpoints, which are often staffed by military personnel or law enforcement personnel. TCOs have erected their own unauthorized checkpoints, at times wearing police and military uniforms, and killed or abducted motorists who have failed to stop at them. You should cooperate at all checkpoints.  

The U.S. Mission in Mexico imposes restrictions on U.S. government employees' (U.S. citizens working at the Embassy and the nine consulates throughout Mexico) travel that have been in place since July 15, 2010. USG employees and their families are not permitted to drive for personal reasons from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior of Mexico or Central America. Personal travel by vehicle is permitted between Hermosillo and Nogales but is restricted to daylight hours and the Highway 15 toll road ("cuota").  

USG personnel and their families are prohibited from personal travel to all areas to which it is advised to“defer non-essential travel”. When travel for official purposes is essential, it is conducted with extensive security precautions. USG personnel and their families are allowed to travel for personal reasons to the areas where no advisory is in effect or where the advisory is to exercise caution. While the general public is not forbidden from visiting places categorized under “defer non-essential travel,” USG personnel will not be able to respond quickly to an emergency situation in those areas due to security precautions that must be taken by USG personnel to travel to those areas.  

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(Source: U.S. Dept. of State)  

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