World Media

U.S. issues highest travel warning for five Mexican states

The U.S. Department of State launched a color-coded map for Americans to be able to see travel warnings at a glance

Rampant crime and gang activity in Mexico prompted the U.S. State Department on Wednesday to issue a stringent travel advisory, warning tourists to completely avoid five Mexican states, an advisory level often reserved for nations at war.

This announcement includes places in the states of Colima, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Guerrero at the same warning level as war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, the report said.

The state of Sinaloa has been a crime spot but since the 2016 arrest of the drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and its successful extradition to the U.S., the region has witnessed a surge in the violence rate with the drug cartels battling to set their empire.

In the case of Tamaulipas, it says that gun battles are widespread and warn of travel by both public and private bus as armed criminal groups take passengers hostage and demand ransom payments.

Los Angeles Times reports that the advisory is the proof of the surging violence in Mexico, which has claimed almost 22,409 lives in 2017 - more than any year since 1997 when the government start releasing crime data.

The State Department's travel advisory system now uses four tiers: "exercise normal precautions", "exercise increased caution", "reconsider travel", and "do not travel".

In Jalisco, a Level 3 state that is home to Guadalajara and the Puerto Vallarta resort, there are no stay restrictions on U.S. government employees.

As a whole, Mexico was rated at the second-lowest of four threat levels in the department's new travel advisory system rolled out last week.

In response to State's latest advisory, the Mexico Tourism Board said the country's "major worldwide tourism destinations have been explicitly listed as having no travel restrictions", referring to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas.

The border states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Sonora as well as Durango, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi are the ones that have been placed under level-3 warnings, FOX 5 reported.

The advisory underscored the limitations that the USA government faces in providing emergency services in many areas of Mexico because US government employees are prohibited from traveling to those areas. The highest homicide rate in Mexico is in Colima due to the growth of a new cartel, where there are 83.3 killings per 100,000 people.