Should you cancel your vacation to Mexico?

While the world reels in shock over the brutal murder of a Mormon extended family in northern Mexico, the horrific crime is just one more reminder of how bad the situation in Mexico has got over the past decade. Warring drug gangs who kill with impunity and with scant regard for life are tearing the country apart and turning it into a war zone.

At least that’s the case in some areas of Mexico, where drug cartels are the real power, and not the government, nor the security forces. Or even worse, the authorities collude with the cartels in ways large and small.

But, as we’ve written about before at IMMIgroup, even well-guarded, expensive tourist resorts in Mexico and other tourist destinations have had crimes committed within their walls.

Authorities are even unsure which cartel group – or splinter group – might be responsible for the massacre of the Mormon family in Sonora, as well as for the other assaults that have occurred recently. Of course, the violence in Mexico goes back years and there are a number of heavily armed criminal organizations vying for control of the lucrative drug trade that runs over the southern U.S. border and into the world’s largest consumer market for narcotics. The main groups include:

  • The Sinaloa Cartel run by the sons of convicted drug lord “El Chapo” Guzman, one of whose sons was recently liberated by an armed platoon of drug terrorists who kidnapped and killed until the local authorities who had arrested his son surrendered in panic and handed him back to his armed thugs.
  • What’s left of the older Juarez Cartel which seems to have formed alliances with a group called La Linea, as well as with other groups according to reports.
  • The horrifyingly brutal (even by Mexico’s bloody standards) Jalisco Cartel New Generation which has left a trail of butchered bodies in it’s quick rise to prominence in Mexico’s narcotics trade.
  • The so-called Jaguares, who appear to be allies of the Sinaloa Cartel. Some local government officials in Mexico are suggesting the attack on the LeBaron family may have been carried out by Jaguares members.

Further exacerbating the critical situation are the policies of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known as AMLO). He’s a populist left-leaning politician who has declared an end to the armed war on drugs in Mexico and advocated for non-violent solutions. The problems is that this new approach seems to have only encouraged the Cartels to up the ante and engage in even more violence, much of it directed at the state itself. 

 Knowing all this, are you still sure you want to vacation in Mexico?

Ok. So, if you’re determined to try and enjoy a vacation in Mexico despite the mutilated remains deposited in plazas and on doorsteps and the bullets flying through the air, then the least you should do is figure out where NOT to go. It’s high time for tourists to think about which areas of the country should be avoided at all costs. It’s time to take precautions and beware of:

 

Mexico’s 7 Deadliest Hell Holes

2010 Map of Cartel Violence in Mexico by Hpav7 [Public domain]

[Public Domain]

 

7. Chihuahua

Chihuahua by Levi bernardo [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

by Levi Bernardo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

It might be a lovable pooch to many people, but it’s also a state in Northern Mexico where the level of violence has reached warlike proportions. This is the part of the country where the killings of the LeBaron family occurred (in the neighbouring state of Sonoma) and, in the days following the killing, there have been armed assaults on:

  • The offices of the district attorney in the state capital of Chihuahua
  • The offices of the district attorney in the city of Juarez
  • Armed assaults at other points within the state capital of Chihuahua.

 

6. Ciudad Juarez

Juarez by Hachiroo [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

by Hachiroo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Speaking of the state of Chihuahua and the armed assaults on DAs by crazed criminal gangs, if you’re reckless enough to wander across the border from El Paso, Texas into its neighbour south of the Rio Grande, you’ll find yourself in – according to a non-profit in Mexico – in the world’s 5th most violent city. That means a murder rate close to that of Caracas, Venezuela where food is scarce and a crazed kleptocrat and his narco army run the collapsing failed state. Ciudad Juarez, on the other hand, is not starving, unless it’s for peace and a little law and order, but it is a hot and dangerous place and a long way from either coast and worthwhile beaches. Stay away and plan to visit somewhere else if you have to go to Mexico.

 

5. Ciudad Victoria

Ciudad Victoria [Public Domain]

[Public Domain]

Head south and then east a ways from Ciudad Juarez and you’ll eventually find yourself in the state of Tamaulipas where Ciudad Victoria ranks 4th on the list of the most violent cities on the planet. But not only that, it has the dubious distinction of having experienced one of the hottest days ever recorded in Mexico: 119.3° Fahrenheit! Who cares if it’s nestled in the foothills of the sierras when you can’t breathe in the scorching heat.

Additionally, as a result of the previous Mexican administration’s attempt to combat the cartel gangs like the Zetas and the Cartel del Golfo (Gulf Cartel), what has happened in the years since is a brutal turf war for control of the trade formerly in the hands of the defeated Zetas and Gulf cartels. As Ciudad Victoria is the state capital of the northeastern state of Tamaulipas it’s become the epicentre for much of that struggle. A particularly bad year was 2017 when over 1,200 murders were recorded. That’s nearly 4 murders per day, every day, all year long. In other words, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the government tries a hardline militarized approach or whether they use the pacifist approach of AMLO’s newly minted government, the violence just gets worse.

 

4. Culiacan

Culiacan by FAL56 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

by FAL56 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY -SA 4.0

Head south from the border area in Sonoma where the LeBaron family were massacred and you get to this oddly named state capital of Sinaloa. Does that name indeed ring a bell? It should because like a growing number of states in Mexico, gang warfare between rival drug gangs and against authorities and innocent bystanders has meant a shocking murder rate of around 70 per 100,000 people. PBS’s Frontline news program has compared the city to Medellin and Cali in Colombia, which were (and to an extent still are) terrorized by drug lords who ruled in a violent quasi-feudal system in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Apparently, the area around Culiacan has been the breeding ground for some of Mexico’s biggest drug barons. Exactly why would you need to go there?

 

3. Tijuana

Tijuana by tj scene [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

by tj scene / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY SA

Roll over in your grave, Herp Albert. Ask not whom the brass plays for. It plays for a city on the border with California which has been strafed with the overwhelming firepower of brazen criminals. The fact that, like Ciudad Juarez, it sits at one of the busiest border crossings anywhere, means it is a great place to smuggle in drugs to the U.S. Consider this, San Diego is over 1,400,000 in population and lies a short drive north of the border in California. In 2017 it reportedly had 35 homicides which works out to around 2.5 murders per 100,000. The rate in Tijuana for 2017? 100.77 murders per 100,000 residents. That means that it’s fifty times safer in San Diego. Or Fifty times more dangerous in Tijuana. If you want to save money by heading to Tijuana to cop a cheap vacation instead of spending more cash in San Diego, at least consider using some of your savings to take out some life insurance.

 

2. Acapulco

Acapulco by Nammer This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

by Nammer / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

The city of cliff divers and memories of movie stars swanning by the Pacific are long, long gone. Hasta la vista. The murder rate is even higher than in Tijuana at over 106 murders per 100,000 residents. Drug wars are mostly to blame but apparently there are factors like the poverty gap that also are creating a hellhole out of what was once a paradise. Want to binge drink on your next winter vacation? Go to Hawaii or Jamaica. Or Cuba even. Stay away from Acapulco.

 

Los Cabos

Cabo by Cristo Vlahos [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

by Cristo Vlahos / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Hey Sammy Hagar, how’s your favorite home away from home? That would be Sammy Hagar who’s the guy who replaced David Lee Roth in Van Halen back in the ‘80s when men looked like poodles and were proud of it. Hagar along with many other lovers of surf, sand and sun, would be shocked perhaps to see that the murder rate in this aging hippie getaway in Baja California (which is of course part of Mexico) is an astronomically high 111.33 homicides per 100,000 residents. The U.S. state department have issued stern travel warnings and you should heed their advice and use extreme caution. Or go somewhere else.

 

A final word of caution

Unfortunately, this list is incomplete as they say. The killings have spread from coast to coast, from Cabo to Cancun as well as Mexico City and many other tourist destinations. It’s simply not safe to go to Mexico, but if you want to at least beat the worst odds, then please avoid our 7 deadly cities. And just to put a little more caution in your travel plans, here’s the Canadian government’s travel advisory for Mexico:

 

MEXICO - Exercise a high degree of caution

Exercise a high degree of caution in Mexico due to high levels of criminal activity and occasional illegal roadblocks throughout the country.

 

Regional Advisory - Avoid non-essential travel

Avoid non-essential travel to the following areas due to high levels of violence and organized crime:

  • all Chihuahua
  • all Colima, except the city of Manzanillo
  • all Coahuila, except the southern part of the state at and below the Saltillo-Torreon highway corridor
  • all Durango, except Durango City
  • all Guerrero, except the cities of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo and Taxco
  • all Michoacán, except the city of Morelia
  • in Morelos
    • the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas
  • in Nayarit
  • the area within 20 km of the border with Sinaloa and Durango
  • the city of Tepic
  • all Nuevo León, except the city of Monterrey
  • all Sinaloa, except the city of Mazatlán
  • all Sonora, except the cities of Hermosillo and Guaymas/San Carlos and Puerto Peñasco
  • all Tamaulipas

Think about it. The Canadian government is telling to stay away from large swaths of Mexico. And this travel advisory came out on November 1st  before the LeBaron family massacre. Expect the list to grow.


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