The recent drug cartel battles in Mexico have caused the U.S. State Department to issue a Level 4 Travel Advisory against a number of Mexican states.
Level 4: Do Not Travel
The U.S. State Department has issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory against Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas.
According to the State Department’s travel website, a Level 4 Advisory is as bad as it gets. It urges you not to travel to an area due to the greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance.
To put this into perspective, countries that are currently experiencing conflict and violent crime like Syria, Yemen, and Somalia all have a Level 4 Travel Advisory.
Drug Violence Escalating
What has made these areas of Mexico so dangerous? In a word, drugs.
Drug violence in Mexico is nothing new, but recently it has spilled over into the civilian population. “Violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread,” the advisory reads.
Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas are all states that have serious connections to the drug trade in one form or another.
Colima, for example, has seen a drastic increase in violence due to the rise of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. Tamaulipas is the battleground of the Gulf cartel and the Zetas. In Michoacán, La Caballeros Templarios rule the state with a $74.6-million-a-year drug operation.
Drug trafficking routes, as well as drug production facilities in these states, also contribute to the increased violence.
An Uphill Climb
Mexican law enforcement is fighting a battle that seems to get bigger every day. Corruption is believed to be widespread among the police and military.
The violence can be so pervasive that it’s not uncommon for communities to resort to vigilantism to handle the problem themselves. In Michoacán, the federal police have reached a deal to incorporate a local militia into a quasi-military defense group to help the vigilantes strike back at the cartels in an official capacity.