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Texas warns students on spring break to avoid traveling to Mexico

March 06, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Cabo San Lucas, the popular resort town at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, was included in the travel warning issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Cabo San Lucas, the popular resort town at the tip of the Baja Peninsula,… (Fideicomiso de Turismo…)

Texas issued a strong warning Tuesday for students who want to party on spring break: Don't go to Mexico. The Department of Public Safety warning cites violent crime from battling drug cartels as reasons to avoid traveling anywhere south of the border -- even to popular tourist destinations that weren't included in a recent U.S. State Department warning.

"The Mexican government has made great strides battling the cartels, and we commend their continued commitment to making Mexico a safer place to live and visit," the statement from Director Steven C. McCraw says in part. "However, drug cartel violence and other criminal activity represent a significant safety threat, even in some resort areas."

Mexico's tourism chief denounced the warning as exceptionally aggressive and untrue. "The DPS has the right to inform as they see fit, but we believe that what they are conveying in the content of the travel alert is not the reality in Mexico," Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board, said via phone from Berlin where he was attending the ITB travel trade show. 

The Texas agency warned about bars and nightclubs in resort sites such as Cancun, Acapulco, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas and Tijuana as "havens for drug dealers and petty criminals." It also referred to 12,903 narcotics-related homicides in the first nine months of 2011 and said the number of U.S. citizens reported as murdered in Mexico jumped from 35 in 2007 to 120 in 2011. Reuters reports this is the third year in a row that Texas has issued such a warning.

Last month, the U.S. State Department updated its traveler warning to Mexico by declaring 14 states as dangerous. But no advisories were given for places such as Cabo San Lucas, Cancun and sites in Quintana Roo that are a draw for tourists.

Mexican tourism officials have long said such warnings like the one issued by Texas paint the country with a broad brush when drug-cartel violence occurs only in specific areas. However, 22 passengers on the Carnival Splendor last month were held up by gunmen while returning from an excursion to El Nogalito. The tourism board labeled the attack a "rare and isolated incident."

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