State Department slaps 5 Mexican states with 'do not travel' advisory

US State Department advisories this week place five Mexican states on the same danger level as Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

Story highlights

  • Five states are placed on the same danger level as Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq
  • Mexico's Tourism Ministry says travelers are safe at 28 most popular tourism destinations

(CNN)Mexico -- long a destination for world-class museums, archeological sites and beach resorts -- now has five states tagged with the US State Department's most severe travel warning.

The new advisories this week place the states -- Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacan, Guerrero and Tamaulipas on the Texas border -- on the same danger level as countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
The advisories cite drug cartel activity and violent crime, and the Tamaulipas warning was very blunt.
    "Do not travel due to crime," it states.
    "Violent crime, such as murder, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, extortion, and sexual assault, is common. Gang activity, including gun battles, is widespread. Armed criminal groups target public and private passenger buses traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers hostage and demanding ransom payments. Local law enforcement has limited capability to respond to violence in many parts of the state."

    Many tourist destinations have no restrictions

    In a statement, Mexico's Tourism Ministry noted that more than 28 of its most popular tourism destinations for international travelers have no restrictions.
    "It's significant that the five tourist destinations that account for 80% of foreign tourist travel to Mexico (Cancún, Riviera Maya, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta-Riviera Nayarit and Mexico City) were not classified with restrictions for international travelers by the State Department," the statement said.
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    Overall, the country received a Level 2 rating, which urges Americans to "exercise increased caution" and notes that "violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread."
    An additional 11 states were slapped with Level 3 warnings, urging Americans to "reconsider travel" there because of crime and gang activity.
    The latest classifications place half of Mexico's 31 states under Level 3 or 4 warnings.
    In Jalisco, a Level 3 state that is home to Guadalajara and the Puerto Vallarta resort, there are no stay restrictions on US government employees.
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    The state of Baja California Sur, which has seen a rise in violence because of an ongoing territorial dispute between the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation drug cartels, retained a Level 2 "exercise increased caution" classification. There are no US government restrictions for travel to tourist areas such as Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.
    A 2015 Congressional Research Service report estimates at least 80,000 people have been killed due to organized crime related incidents since 2006. Under President Enrique Peña Nieto, overall intentional homicide numbers have declined as much as 30%, according to the Mexican government.
    While high-profile killings in certain hot spots have gotten media attention, Mexico's homicide rate is actually closer to the middle of the pack than the top, compared to other nations in the hemisphere.