Here’s the latest US State Department travel advisory following recent violence across Mexico – Orange County Register

Counter the cartels

The US continues to monitor drug gang activities in Baja California following recent outbreaks of violence across Mexico. The August 12 instructions to US government personnel in the country to seek shelter on the ground are no longer in effect.

The good news is that most of Mexico is safe to visit, but the US State Department advises against travel to some areas of Mexico.

A wave of violence began in the states of Jalisco and Guanajuato on August 9 when the Jalisco New Generation Cartel responded to the arrest of one of its alleged leaders by setting fire to vehicles and businesses. On August 11, a brawl between members of rival criminal gangs at a prison in Ciudad Juárez and a subsequent spate of attacks in the northern border town killed at least 10 people, including non-gang members.

The newspapers Mexico News Daily and Reforma reported that on August 12, the violence spread to several cities in Baja California – including Tijuana and the state capital Mexicali – and returned to Guanajuato, Mexico’s most violent state.

Gunmen seized and set fire to at least 19 vehicles in Tecate, Tijuana, Playas de Rosarito, Mexicali and Ensenada. Public buses and trucks were among the vehicles reportedly set on fire by criminals linked to the Jalisco cartel. Ten vehicles were torched to block roads in Tijuana.

About 300 soldiers and 50 members of the National Guard were deployed to Tijuana on August 13, where thousands of guard troops are permanently stationed.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador advised citizens to remain calm. “I say to the people of Mexico: be quiet. There is governability; there is stability,” he said at his regular press conference.

López Obrador said there were “only” 196 murders across Mexico between August 12 and 14, not 260 as some media outlets reported.

Which cartel is responsible

The Jalisco cartel is relatively new. The Congressional Research Service reported that the cartel, originally known as the Zeta Killers, made its debut in 2011 with a roadside display of 35 dead bodies belonging to rival gang Los Zetas.

In 2015, the Mexican government declared the Jalisco cartel one of the most dangerous in the country. In 2016, the US Treasury Department said the same thing, calling the group one of the “most prolific and violent drug trafficking organizations” in the world.

According to some analysts, the Jalisco cartel has pursued an aggressive growth strategy fueled by US demand for Mexican methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration considers the Jalisco cartel one of the top threats facing the US and Mexico’s best-armed criminal group. The DEA has offered a $10 million bounty for information leading to the arrest of one of its kingpins known as El Mencho. He is a former police officer who once served time in California for heroin trafficking.

Divide and conquer?

Cartels are more fragmented and competitive than they have been in the past 20 years, but analysts are divided on the extent of cartel fragmentation. In response to former Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s strong anti-drug efforts, the fragmentation that began in 2010 brought new actors to the criminal landscape, such as Los Zetas and the Knights Templar. By 2018, a number of smaller organizations were active, and some of the once small groups, like the Jalisco Cartel, had filled the space that was left after arrests, deaths and internal dynamics disrupted other criminal groups.

US Department of State Travel Advisory

Level 4: The areas with the strictest “travel bans” for kidnapping and other crimes are the northern border state of Tamaulipas and the Pacific Coast states of Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacan and Guerrero. They are shown in red on the map below.

Tier 3: Added Baja California to the list of states where visitors are advised to “reconsider travel” due to crime. The 10 other states in this category are Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Mexico, Morelos, Nayarit, Sonora, and Zacatecas. They are shown in orange.



Sources: Congressional Research Service, DEA, US State Department, Stratfor, Mexico News Daily, Reforma, Mexican Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System Here’s the latest US State Department travel advisory following recent violence across Mexico – Orange County Register

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