US issues 'do not travel' warning for Mexico

The U.S. State Department is reminding American citizens it has issued its highest-level warning advising against travel to parts of Mexico. 

This comes after the FBI announced four U.S. citizens were kidnapped after gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in the northern Mexico border city of Matamoros. Two of the Americans were killed and the other two found alive after the violent shootout and abduction that was captured on video. 

A relative of one of the victims said the four had traveled together from the Carolinas, entering from Brownsville, Texas, so one of them could get a tummy tuck from a doctor in Matamoros, where Friday’s kidnapping took place. The FBI said that the vehicle came under fire shortly after it entered Mexico.

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"All four Americans were placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men," the office said.

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Matamoros is located in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which is included in the travel warning along with Guerrero, Colima, Michoacan, Sinaloa, and Zacatecas.

However, officials said because Matamoros is a border city, U.S. citizens who live in Brownsville or elsewhere in Texas frequently cross the border to visit family, go to medical appointments, or shop. It also serves as a crossing point for people traveling deeper into Mexico, according to officials. 

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The Gateway International Bridge between Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Mexico, as seen through the border wall. Viewed from Texas side of the wall. (Photo by: Jon G. Fuller/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Matamoros is notorious for warring factions of the Gulf drug cartel, and the violence has become so bad that the U.S. Consulate issued an alert following the kidnapping. 

For years, a night out in Matamoros was also part of the "two-nation vacation" for spring breakers flocking to Texas’ South Padre Island. But increased violence there over the past 10 to 15 years frightened away much of that business.

FOX 11 has reported on several incidents of kidnappings and crimes against American tourists in Mexico. Just last year, an American tourist had his foot hacked by a machete after being kidnapped by his taxi driver. 


In January, 33-year-old Orange County public defender Elliot Blair was found dead in Rosarito during a one-year wedding celebration with his wife. A Mexican prosecutor described Blair's death as an unfortunate accident, saying he fell off the hotel's balcony after ingesting a significant amount of alcohol.  Blair's family, however, does not believe he was intoxicated and fell. They believe he was the victim of a brutal crime. Blair's autopsy report performed in Mexico showed the lawyer sustained 40 fractures to the back of his skull as well as "road rash" on his knees and a toe injury, which indicated he was dragged. The results contradict statement from authorities indicating Blair died from a fall from a balcony at the Rosarito Beach resort where the couple was staying, the family's lawyer said.

If you must travel to Mexico, officials strongly recommend the following: 

  • Review the U.S. Embassy's webpage on COVID-19.
  • Visit the CDC’s web page on Travel and COVID-19.
  • Keep traveling companions and family back home informed of your travel plans. If separating from your travel group, send a friend your GPS location. If taking a taxi alone, take a photo of the taxi number and/or license plate and text it to a friend.
  • Use toll roads when possible and avoid driving alone or at night. In many states, police presence and emergency services are extremely limited outside the state capital or major cities.
  • Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos.
  • Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
  • Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Follow the U.S. Embassy on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Country Security Report for Mexico.
  • Mariners planning travel to Mexico should check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts, which include instructions on reporting suspicious activities and attacks to Mexican naval authorities.
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

The Associated Press and FOX News contributed to this report.