Five states in Mexico now have the sternest “do not travel” advisories under a revamped U.S. State Department system unveiled Wednesday, putting them on the same level as war-torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.
The five states are Tamaulipas on the U.S. border and Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacan and Guerrero on the Pacific coast. All the states are hot spots of drug cartel activity, either hosting trafficking routes or extensive drug-crop cultivation.
The State Department had previously discouraged travel to all or part of those states but the new warnings are sterner, placing them on a level 4 warning, the highest level of potential danger.
Mexico as a whole has a level 2 rating, meaning Americans should “exercise increased caution” because of concerns about crime. “Violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread,” a travel advisory dated January 10 says.
But an additional 11 Mexican states got a level 3 warning Wednesday, which urges people to “reconsider travel” there. Mexico has 31 states, half of which are now under level 3 or 4 warnings.
Mexico’s federal tourism department was not immediately available to comment on the new warnings. But the government’s Mexico Tourism Board said in a statement that “Mexico’s major international tourism destinations have been explicitly listed as having no travel restrictions,” apparently a reference to major resorts like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Huatulco.
However, at least two Mexican resorts — Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and Acapulco — are in a do-not-travel state, Guerrero, and last year, the State Department extended a total ban on personal travel by U.S. government personnel there.
U.S. personnel had previously been allowed to fly to Ixtapa, the last place in Guerrero where they had been allowed to go. Personal travel by land and to the resort city of Acapulco had already been prohibited.
The no-travel states had mostly already lost much foreign tourism. Tamaulipas has long been riven by turf wars between rival drug cartels, and Sinaloa is home to the cartel of the same name. Michoacan was so dominated by a drug cartel that vigilantes took up arms in 2013 to drive them out.
Preliminary figures suggest Mexico saw a record number of murders last year, the BBC reports. The year that previously had the most homicides was 2011, when over 27,000 people were killed, according to official figures.
Colima has seen homicides skyrocket in recent years due to the growth of the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel, and the state now has Mexico’s highest homicide rate, with 83.3 killings per 100,000 residents, according to figures for the first 11 months of 2017.