The U.S. Department of State has released a travel alert discouraging visits to Mexico, especially to cities along the U.S. border, in response to increased violence and crime in those areas, said Tiffany Evans, director of student involvement and leadership at USU.
Evans said she wants USU students who are planning to visit Mexico to understand the dangers that currently exist in the country, and stresses the importance of becoming aware of these threats.
“I know hundreds of students will be visiting cities in Mexico, or going on cruises to Mexico and some even have plans of sleeping on the beaches in Encenada, but it’s important that students are aware that a travel warning has been issued and to take appropriate precautions,” Evans said.
In addition to warning travelers of the potential dangers, Evans said she hopes to encourage USU students to become educated on where it is safe to travel within Mexico.
The travel alert was issued in response to a spike in criminal activity stemming mostly from drug cartels in Mexico. Certain areas have become so bad the Mexican army has been deployed to aid local police. Some areas are so violent the alert states they resemble war zones. During these incidents, some U.S. travelers have been trapped in the country until it was calm enough to allow them to leave, according to the alert.
“A number of areas along the border are experiencing rapid growth in the rates of many types of crime. Robberies, homicides, petty thefts and carjackings have all increased over the last year across Mexico generally, with notable spikes in Tijuana and northern Baja California,” the alert states.
While the majority of the violence is being seen along the Mexico and U.S. border, the travel alert said those vising Mexico should be cautious no matter where they are in the country.
“Common sense precautions, such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours and avoiding areas where prostitution and drug dealing might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable,” the alert states.
While the alert discourages unnecessary travel to Mexico, it does state popular resort and tourist areas are safer and travelers should try to stick to those areas if possible.
Travelers should not display expensive jewelry or clothing, or act in a manner that draws too much attention to themselves, the alert states. It also suggests travelers only drive on main roads and only during daylight hours. Leaving an itinerary behind with a friend is also recommended, in addition to ensuring a cellphone is always charged and in service.
Maria Cordero, associate professor of Spanish at USU, said she had scheduled a trip for the Spanish Club this semester, but decided to cancel it because she thought it unwise to usher 21 U.S. students through Mexico in this turbulent time.
“As their adviser, I really took the travel alert seriously and put the safety of the students first,” Cordero said.
The Spanish Club was supposed to visit Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, which is not currently a location in Mexico designated as too unsafe, Cordero said. However, to get there the group would have to travel across the border and through Nogales, an area recently designated as dangerous.
Cordero said universities across the nation are discouraging students to visit Mexico this Spring Break and it is unclear when things will calm down.
“It’s hard to say what the future will hold. Right now it’s unclear how long it will take for things to settle down in Mexico. This travel alert goes clear through the end of summer,” Cordero said.
In addition to war-like violence in certain cities, the alert states Mexico is currently seeing an increase in demonstrations, many of which are peaceful. However, some do have the potential to become dangerous and escalate quickly. The alert also states there have been dozens of cases of American tourists being kidnapped, many of which were unresolved, and stressed again to avoid questionable areas at night.