The Canadian government has raised its alert levels for Canadians travelling to Mexico, considerably expanding the range of geographic areas to avoid by no longer limiting its warnings to the northern areas bordering the Unites States.
Of particular interest to Canada’s “Winter Texans” is the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) warning to avoid all non-essential travel to all six of Mexico’s northern states, including the cities of Matamoros, Reynosa, and Nueva Laredo in the state of Tamaulipas (across from the Rio Grande and Texas), and also to stay off any highways in the states of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Durango, and Sinaloa in the interior.
In effect, the advisories single out more than one-third of Mexico’s 31 states (or federal districts).
DFAIT notes also that foreign residents and tourists have been the victims of incidents due to drug-related violence in the states of Guerrero (Acapulco), Morelos (Cuernavaca), Nuevo Leon (Monterrey), and the southern part of Baja California. The government warnings mention neither the attacks on tourists in Taxco, Zihuatanejo, and Acapulco, nor the civic and police corruption arrests in Cancun, one of Mexico’s leading drug transit points.
What the government warnings and advisories do show is a rapid contraction of Mexico’s safety zone for tourism. Though the Mexican government continues to pronounce that the drug wars have not intruded into tourism areas, there are now few tourism destinations that have not been directly touched by the drug violence. Since 2006, more than 28,000 people have been killed throughout Mexico, including innocent school children, tourists, foreign businesspeople, as well as bystanders caught in the crossfire. Just this August, the popular Castillo del Mar bar in Cancun was bombed, leaving eight people dead.
The Canadian government advises those planning a trip to Mexico this winter to fly to their destination (don’t drive in from Texas, Arizona, or California), be careful when withdrawing large sums of money at ATMs (especially at Mexico City’s airport), take only clearly legitimate cabs or tour buses at official loading stops, stay clear of freelance “tour guides,” and beware of scams in which criminals posing as police approach you and ask for your passport or for foreign currency.
The advisory says: “There have been cases of legitimate police officers extorting money from tourists or arresting tourists for minor offences or traffic violations. If this occurs, you should not hand over your money or your passport. Instead, you should ask for the officer’s name, badge number, patrol car numbers, location of the arrest. Should you feel the fine cannot be justified, proceed to the nearest Agencie del Ministerio Publico and Tourism office to file a complaint.”
With the drug cartels are gaining more and more control over all aspects of life throughout Mexico, you can’t let your guard down just because you can’t hear the gunfire. As DFAIT states: “Armed clashes between security forces and drug groups are commonplace in certain areas and can occur at any times without warning. Travellers can get caught in the crossfire.” And to date, many have—some even on the US side of the border.
So be careful. Especially you Winter Texans.
Stay abreast of any advisories by checking if there are travel warnings related to your next trip.