U.S. STATE DEPT. TRAVEL WARNING…MEXICO

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Mexico Travel Warning Last updated: January 9, 2014

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling in Mexico due to threats to safety and security posed by Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) in the country. U.S. citizens have been the target of violent crimes, such as kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery by TCOs in various Mexican states. 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 replaces the Travel Warning for Mexico, issued July 12, 2013, to update information about the security situation and to advise the public of additional restrictions on the travel of U.S. government (USG) personnel.

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. The Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) have targeted U.S. visitors or 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 are reported in the border region or 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 71 in 2012 and 81 in 2013.

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 throughout Mexico is of particular concern and appears to be on the rise. According to statistics published by the Mexican Secretaria de Gobernacion (SEGOB), during the first 11 months of 2013 kidnappings nationwide increased 32 percent over the same period in 2012. While kidnappings can occur anywhere, according to SEGOB during this timeframe, the states with the highest numbers of kidnappings were Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Michoacán, Estado de Mexico, and Morelos. Additionally, according to a widely publicized study by the agency responsible for national statistics (INEGI, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography), Mexico suffered an estimated 105,682 kidnappings in 2012; only 1,317 were reported to the police. Police have been implicated in some of these incidents. Both local and expatriate communities have been victimized. Almost 90 kidnappings of U.S. citizens were reported to the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Mexico between April and November of 2013.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to lower their personal profiles and to avoid wearing conspicuous jewelry or clothing bearing logos of U.S. sports teams or military themed apparel which that may identify them as U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens are encouraged to maintain awareness of their surroundings and avoid situations in which they may be isolated.

Kidnappings in Mexico have included traditional, “express” and “virtual” kidnappings. Victims of traditional kidnappings are physically abducted and held captive until a ransom is paid for release. “Express” kidnappings are those in which a victim is abducted for a short time and forced to withdraw money, usually from an ATM, then released. A “virtual” kidnapping is an extortion by deception scheme wherein a victim is contacted by phone and convinced to isolate themselves from family and friends until a ransom is paid. The victim is coerced (by threat of violence) to remain isolated and to provide phone numbers for the victim’s family or loved ones. The victim’s family is then contacted and a ransom for the “kidnapped” extracted. Recently, some travelers to Mexico staying at hotels as guests have been targets of such “virtual” kidnapping schemes.

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’ demands have reported that they were not physically harmed. Carjackers have shot at vehicles that have attempted to flee. Incidents have occurred during the day and at night, and carjackers have used a variety of techniques, including roadblocks, bumping/moving vehicles to force them to stop, and running vehicles off the road at high speeds. There are indications that criminals target newer and larger vehicles, especially dark-colored SUVs. However, even drivers of old sedans and buses coming from the United States have been targeted. While violent incidents can occur anywhere and at any time, they most frequently occur at night and on isolated roads. To reduce risk when traveling 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 (“cuotas”) 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 by car or bus may encounter government checkpoints, staffed by military 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 Department imposes restrictions on U.S. government employees’ travel in Mexico. Since July 2010, USG employees are prohibited from driving on non-official travel from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior of Mexico or Central America. One exception is that personal travel by motor vehicle is permitted on Highway 15 toll road between Hermosillo and Nogales during daylight hours.

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.

For more information about travel and other conditions in Mexico, including individual states. (Use Link Below)

http://tinyurl.com/oczshhw
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Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens: El Salvador Warns of Critical Crime 1/14/2014

This message is to remind U.S. citizens residing and traveling in El Salvador of the critical crime threat in El Salvador. Most travelers to El Salvador experience no safety or security problems, but as noted in our August 9, 2013, Travel Warning for El Salvador, both random and organized violent crime is endemic throughout El Salvador. U.S. citizens are not normally singled out based on their nationality, but are subject to the same threats as all other persons in El Salvador.

Over the last several weeks, several joggers and pedestrians were robbed at gunpoint in the immediate area around U.S. Embassy San Salvador. Blogs associated with local running and cycling groups have also reported on runners being targeted in the Santa Elena area as well as other affluent areas, such as Escalon and San Benito. Due to these issues, U.S. Embassy security officials advise all U.S. Government personnel not to walk, run or cycle in the unguarded streets and parksof El Salvador, even in groups, and recommend exercising only in gyms and fitness centers.

More info at link below:
http://tinyurl.com/ong8t79

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