The U.S. State Department issued an alert earlier this week urging Americans to review potential threats before traveling south of the border. The threats include risk of violent crime, drugs, and potentially tainted alcohol and counterfeit drugs.
In a similar move, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued its own independent warning urging Americans to avoid travel to Mexico altogether.
"Drug cartel violence and other criminal activity represent a significant safety threat to anyone who crosses into Mexico right now," said DPS Director Steven McCraw. "Based on the volatile nature of cartel activity and the violence we are seeing there, we are urging individuals to avoid travel to Mexico at this time."
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Additionally, the alert warns travelers to "exercise increased caution" especially after dark at Caribbean beach resorts like Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, which have been plagued by drug gang violence in the past.
"U.S. citizens should exercise increased caution in the downtown areas of popular spring break locations including Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and Tulum, especially after dark," according to the alert.
The State Department also noted that U.S. citizens "have become seriously ill or died in Mexico after using synthetic drugs or adulterated prescription pills."
That warning followed reports that some pharmacies in Mexico freely offer sedatives and other drugs that can only be sold with prescriptions in the United States. The Mexican pills are often counterfeit and contain the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.
The alert also noted that "unregulated alcohol may be contaminated, and U.S. citizens have reported losing consciousness or becoming injured after consuming alcohol that was possibly tainted."
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 earlier this month. 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 the kidnapping took place. The FBI said that the vehicle came under fire shortly after it entered Mexico.
Matamoros is located in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which is included in the travel warning.
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.
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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.
In 2022, two Canadians were killed in Playa del Carmen, apparently because of debts between international drug and weapons trafficking gangs.
In 2021, farther south in the laid-back destination of Tulum, two tourists — one a California travel blogger born in India and the other German — were caught in the apparent crossfire of rival drug dealers and killed.
Those wanting to travel to Mexico are urged to register their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate prior to departure. Officials said by registering, travelers will get safety and secure information in the event of a crisis and this also makes it easier for U.S. authorities to locate Americans in an emergency.
Travelers are also advised to make sure that their health insurance plan includes coverage in Mexico, including medical evacuation.
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 contributed to this report.