U.S. State Department Issues New Travel Warning for Most of Guerrero State

By Navarro, Carlos | SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico, April 20, 2016 | Go to article overview

U.S. State Department Issues New Travel Warning for Most of Guerrero State


Navarro, Carlos, SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico


The already beleaguered tourism industry in Guerrero suffered another blow after the US State Department announced tighter restrictions on travel to most areas of the state. In its new directive, the State Department prohibited US government employees from traveling by road to all areas of Guerrero, although air travel is permitted to Acapulco, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo.

"The state of Guerrero was the most violent state in Mexico in 2015 for the third year in a row, with a murder rate of 57 per 100,000 residents, according to the Mexican Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica," said the State Department warning, dated April 15, 2016.

"Self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero," the warning added. "Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable."

The self-defense groups were formed by local residents in Guerrero (as well as in Michoacan, Oaxaca, and other states) to counter extortion and other activities by criminal organizations and to fight for their rights (SourceMex, Feb. 19, 2014). These independent militias have taken a hard line against the drug cartels, which receive protection from corrupt local law-enforcement officers and elected officials who look the other way, or perhaps aid directly, in criminal activities such as extortion and kidnappings (SourceMex, Jan. 22, 2014, and Feb. 12, 2014).

Power struggles among the criminal organizations have also contributed to the climate of extreme insecurity in Guerrero, with much of the attention centered on Acapulco, where more than 1,600 murders were reported in 2015 (SourceMex, March 2, 2016).

In 2013, Acapulco ranked as the second most violent city in the world, with 143 murders per 100,000 residents. Only San Pedro Sula in Honduras had a higher violence ratio that year, with 169 killings per 100,000 residents (SourceMex, Feb. 13, 2013).

The US warning came along with a new warning from the Canadian government, which urged its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Acapulco. "Criminal activity has significantly increased in the states of Guerrero, Jalisco, and Michoacan," said Global Affairs Canada. "Reports of illegal roadblocks and demonstrations are also more frequent. The deterioration of the security situation is particularly noticeable in the rural areas of Guerrero and Michoacan."

Governor rejects warnings

Guerrero state authorities rejected the warnings, which they described as counterproductive. "These types of alerts have already been issued for many states in the country, including ours," said Gov. Hector Astudillo Flores. "Even so, Guerrero has attracted an increasing number of foreign visitors this year. In fact, we organized a big fiesta in which we recognized the loyalty of frequent foreign visitors to Acapulco and Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo."

In a press conference held with business and tourism leaders in Acapulco, Astudillo said, "Our government has an unwavering commitment to confront organized crime." He emphasized that tourist destinations in Guerrero attained a 95% occupancy rate during recent peak tourist periods, and "not a single incident [of violence] was reported in the tourist zones."

Advisories for other states

The State Department also has travel warnings for other areas of Mexico where drug cartels are active. "Gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities have taken place in towns and cities in many parts of Mexico and have occurred in broad daylight on streets and in other public venues, such as restaurants and clubs. During some of these incidents, US citizens have been temporarily prevented from leaving the area," said a general advisory for Mexico. …

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