MEXICO CITY, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Rampant crime and gang activity in Mexico prompted the U.S. State Department on Wednesday to issue a stringent travel advisory, warning tourists to completely avoid five Mexican states, an advisory level often reserved for nations at war.
The State Department's highest "do not travel" advisory places the states of Colima, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Guerrero at the same warning level as war-ravaged Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The advisory delivered a stark reminder of the formerly ritzy seaside resort city Acapulco fall from grace.
RELATED: Places the State Department has issued travel alerts, warnings for
Places the State Department has issued travel alerts, warnings for
Places the State Department has issued travel alerts, warnings for
Mali -- State Department warning:
U.S. citizens in Mali are reminded to stay vigilant, remain aware of their surroundings, and exercise caution, especially at night. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated December 23, 2016.
The potential for terrorist attacks in Bamako is high. Locations frequented by Westerners and other expatriates, including but not limited to night clubs, hotels, restaurants, places of worship, and Western diplomatic missions are targets for attacks. On June 18, 2017 terrorists attacked a hotel/resort complex 24 km east of Bamako city center, a site frequented primarily by Westerners and other expatriates. This was the fourth attack on such a site in the Bamako region since 2015.
This supersedes the Travel Warning for Ukraine dated December 14, 2016.
Russian-led separatists continue to control areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, where violent clashes have resulted in over 9,000 deaths. A ceasefire agreement established a de facto dividing line between Ukrainian government-controlled and non-government controlled areas of Ukraine, with a limited number of operational checkpoints controlled by government and Russian-led separatist forces. There have been multiple casualties due to land mines in areas previously controlled by the Russian-led separatists, and both sides of the contact line are mined. So-called “separatist leaders” have made statements indicating their desire to push the contact line to the administrative borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Artillery and rocket attacks near the line of contact continue to occur regularly. Individuals, including U.S. citizens, have been threatened, detained, or kidnapped for hours or days after being stopped at separatist checkpoints, and one U.S. citizen working for OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine was killed inside the non-government controlled area of Luhansk. The Government of Ukraine has stated that foreigners, including U.S. citizens, who enter Ukraine from Russia through non-government controlled territory, will not be allowed through checkpoints into government-controlled territory.
This replaces the Travel Warning dated November 15, 2016.
The political situation in Burundi is tenuous, and there is sporadic violence throughout the country, including frequent gunfire and grenade attacks by armed groups. Police and military checkpoints throughout the country restrict freedom of movement, and police have searched the homes of private U.S. citizens as a part of larger weapons searches. U.S. citizens should take these facts into consideration when developing their personal safety plans.
Rebel forces, ex-combatants, and youth gangs have crossed into Burundi from the Democratic Republic of Congo and attacked and kidnapped civilians. Armed criminals have ambushed vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura. Use caution if traveling by car, and travel with multiple vehicles when possible.
This replaces the Travel Warning for Algeria dated December 13, 2016.
While violence has reduced significantly in recent years, terrorist groups remain active in some parts of the country. Although major cities are heavily policed, the possibility of terrorist acts in urban areas cannot be excluded. Extremists have conducted attacks in the following areas:
mountainous region south and east of Algiers (provinces of Blida, Boumerdes, Tizi Ouzou, Bouira, and Bejaia)
further east outside the city of Constantine
southern and eastern border regions, including Tebessa and the Chaambi mountains area, south of Souk Ahras, near the Tunisian border
U.S. citizens should exercise caution, as violence linked to domestic insurgency, narco-trafficking, crime, and kidnapping occur in some rural and urban areas. This replaces the previous travel warning dated April 5, 2016.
Organized political and criminal armed groups are active throughout much of the country and their methods include the use of explosives and bomb threats in public spaces. Violence associated with the armed groups occurs in rural areas as well as Colombia's major cities, including in the capital. These groups are heavily involved in the drug trade, extortion, kidnapping, and robbery. On November 30, 2016, the Colombian government approved a peace accord with the largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The peace agreement is in the process of being implemented and does not include other active armed groups.
Rates of kidnapping, murder, and rape rose in 2016. While there is no indication that U. S. citizens are specifically targeted, kidnapping for ransom can affect anyone in Haiti, particularly long-term residents. Armed robberies and violent assaults reported by U.S. citizens have risen in recent years. Do not share specific travel plans with strangers. Be aware that newly arrived travelers are targeted. Arrange to have your host or organization meet you at the airport upon arrival or pre-arranged airport to hotel transfers. Be cautious when visiting banks and ATMs, which are often targeted by criminals. Fewer incidents of crime are reported outside of Port-au-Prince, but Haitian authorities' ability to respond to emergencies is limited and in some areas nonexistent. U.S. Embassy employees are discouraged from walking in city neighborhoods, including in Petionville. Visit only establishments with secured parking lots. U.S. Embassy personnel are under a curfew from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Embassy personnel must receive permission from the Embassy security officer to travel to some areas of Port-au-Prince and some regions of the country, thus limiting the Embassy’s ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens.
The Department of State updated this Travel Warning in October 2016 to reflect concerns regarding detentions of U.S. citizens by armed groups in Sanaa, and this threat remains unchanged. The Department continues to urge U.S. citizens to defer all travel to Yemen. We urge U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart as soon as they are able to safely do so. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Yemen issued on October 6, 2016.
Since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015, rebel groups in Sanaa have systematically detained U.S. citizens. Reports indicate that U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, are being targeted by virtue of their citizenship, regardless of the amount of time they have spent in Yemen, their established connections with the rebel groups, or their connections with local businesses or humanitarian organizations aimed at providing relief to those in need. During their detentions, which in some cases have lasted over a year, U.S. citizens have not been able to contact their families or be visited by U.S. consular personnel or international humanitarian organizations. The U.S. government’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in detention is severely limited. There is no U.S. government presence on the ground following the rebel takeover of Sanaa. The Department of State suspended embassy operations and U.S. Embassy Sanaa American staff relocated out of the country in February 2015. All consular services, routine and/or emergency, are suspended until further notice.
Pakistan -- State Department warning updated May 22:
Consular services provided by the American Embassy in Islamabad, the Consulate General in Karachi, and the Consulate General in Lahore are often limited due to the security environment. At this time, the Consulate General in Peshawar is not providing consular services.
Pakistan continues to experience significant terrorist violence, including sectarian attacks. Targeted attacks against government officials, humanitarian and non-governmental organization (NGO) employees, tribal elders, and law enforcement personnel are common. Throughout Pakistan, foreign and indigenous terrorist groups continue to pose a danger to U.S. citizens. Evidence suggests that some victims of terrorist activity have been targeted because they are U.S. citizens. Terrorists and criminal groups have resorted to kidnapping for ransom.
North Korea -- State Department warning updated May 9:
The Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens not to travel to North Korea/the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). U.S. citizens in the DPRK are at serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement. This system imposes unduly harsh sentences for actions that would not be considered crimes in the United States and threatens U.S. citizen detainees with being treated in accordance with “wartime law of the DPRK.” Since the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea, the U.S. government has no means to provide normal consular services to U.S. citizens in North Korea. This notice updates the number of U.S. citizens who have been detained in North Korea and replaces the Travel Warning dated February 7, 2017.
At least 16 U.S. citizens have been detained in North Korea in the past ten years. North Korean authorities have detained those who traveled independently and those who were part of organized tours. Being a member of a group tour or using a tour guide will not prevent North Korean authorities from detaining or arresting you. Efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions of U.S. citizens in the DPRK have not been successful.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to southeastern Tunisia along the Libyan border as well as certain mountainous areas in the country’s west, due to the threat of terrorism. This replaces the Travel Warning issued September 29, 2016.
Terrorist attacks have previously targeted Tunisian government and security forces and popular tourist sites. On March 7, 2016, an attack by ISIS-affiliated militants in the southeastern border town of Ben Guerdan resulted in the deaths of 12 Tunisian security officials and civilians. Two attacks in 2015 targeted tourists: the Bardo Museum in Tunis on March 18 and two beach hotels near Sousse on June 26. ISIS claimed responsibility for these attacks. Groups of militants continue to operate in certain mountains of Western Tunisia, including Jebel Chaambi, Sammama, and Selloum. The Tunisian government continues security force operations against Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AAS-T), ISIS, and al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Recent, widely-reported incidents in France, Russia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom demonstrate that the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS or Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, and their affiliates have the ability to plan and execute terrorist attacks in Europe. While local governments continue counterterrorism operations, the Department nevertheless remains concerned about the potential for future terrorist attacks. U.S. citizens should always be alert to the possibility that terrorist sympathizers or self-radicalized extremists may conduct attacks with little or no warning.
Extremists continue to focus on tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities as viable targets. In addition, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, high-profile events, educational institutions, airports, and other soft targets remain priority locations for possible attacks. U.S. citizens should exercise additional vigilance in these and similar locations, in particular during the upcoming summer travel season when large crowds may be common.
Israel -- State Department warning issued April 11:
The security situation remains complex in Israel and the West Bank and can change quickly depending on the political environment, recent events, and particular geographic location. U.S. citizens should exercise caution and remain aware of their surroundings when traveling to areas where there are heightened tensions and security risks. The Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority both make considerable efforts to ensure security, particularly in areas where foreigners frequently travel. This replaces the Travel Warning issued August 23, 2016.
Gaza is under the control of Hamas, a U.S. government-designated foreign terrorist organization. The security environment within Gaza and on its borders is dangerous and volatile. Violent demonstrations and shootings occur on a frequent basis and the collateral risks are high. While Israel and Hamas continue to observe the temporary cease-fire that ended the latest Gaza conflict in 2014, sporadic mortar or rocket fire and corresponding Israeli military responses continue to occur.
Democratic Republic of the Congo -- State Department warning issued March 29:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to the DRC. Very poor transportation infrastructure throughout the country and poor security conditions in eastern DRC make it difficult for the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services anywhere outside of Kinshasa. All U.S. citizens should have evacuation plans that do not rely solely on U.S. government assistance. This replaces the Travel Warning dated December 23, 2016.
Armed groups, bandits, and some elements of the Congolese armed forces operate in the provinces of North and South Kivu, Bas-Uele, Haut-Uele, Ituri, Tanganyika, Haut-Lomami, and the Kasai region. These groups have been known to kill, rape, kidnap, pillage, and carry out military or paramilitary operations in which civilians may be indiscriminately targeted.
Saudi Arabia -- State Department warning issued March 29:
The State Department warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to Saudi Arabia due to continuing threats from terrorist groups. Furthermore, violence in Yemen has spilled over into Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions. This warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued July 27, 2016.Threat of Terrorism – Terrorist groups, including ISIS and its affiliates, have targeted both Saudi and Western government interests, mosques and significant religious sites (both Sunni and Shia), and places frequented by U.S. citizens and other Westerners.
Turkey -- State Department warning issued March 28:
U.S. citizens are warned of increased threats from terrorist groups in Turkey. Carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time, and avoid travel to southeast Turkey due to the persistent threat of terrorism. On March 27, the Department of State terminated its October 29, 2016, decision to direct family members of employees posted to the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul to depart Turkey temporarily. However, there are restrictions on personal and official travel by U.S. government personnel and their family members travelling to and residing in Istanbul. Restrictions on travel by U.S. government personnel to certain areas in southeast Turkey, including Adana, remain. This replaces the travel warning dated January 25, 2017.
In 2016, numerous terrorist attacks involving shootings, suicide bombings, and vehicle-borne bombings in tourist areas, public spaces, private celebrations, sporting events, and government, police, and military facilities throughout Turkey resulted in hundreds of deaths. The most recent attacks include a mass shooting at the Istanbul Reina nightclub on January 1, 2017, and simultaneous suicide bombings near Istanbul’s Besiktas/Vodafone Soccer Stadium on December 10, 2016. In addition, an increase in anti-American rhetoric has the potential to inspire independent actors to carry out acts of violence against U.S. citizens.
Mauritania -- State Department warning issued March 22:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to far eastern Mauritania due to the activities of terrorist groups which are active in the neighboring regions of Mali including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and those which pose a threat in the greater Sub-Saharan region, such as the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS). The U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott is able to provide only very limited consular services in remote and rural areas of Mauritania. This replaces the Travel Warning for Mauritania dated February 23, 2016, to update U.S. citizens on the current security situation.
The government of Mauritania has designated the following areas as a restricted Security Zone, and you must have permission from Mauritanian authorities to travel there:
The eastern half of the Tagant region (east of Tidjikja)
The eastern half of the Adrar region (east of Ouadane)
The Zemmour region (other than F’Derick and Zouerat)
Additionally, there is a risk of kidnapping and other violent crime in the Hodh El Charghi region near the southern and eastern border with Mali. Aside from the security risks, these areas are dangerous due to their remoteness and harsh environment.
Cameroon -- State Department warning issued March 22:
The State Department warns U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the North and Far North Regions and parts of the East and Adamawa Regions of Cameroon because of terrorist threats and the risk of violent crime. The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular services in remote and rural areas of Cameroon is extremely limited. This replaces the Travel Warning dated August 19, 2016.
The Boko Haram terrorist group has actively targeted foreign residents, tourists, and government leaders in the North and Far North Region. Thirty-seven foreigners have been reported kidnapped since 2013. Since July 2015, the group has carried out dozens of suicide bombings in the North and Far North Regions, including the city of Maroua. The U.S. Embassy restricts U.S. official personnel travel to the North, Far North, and East Regions of Cameroon, as well as any travel to the north or east of Ngaoundere in the Adamawa Region.
U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution if traveling within 60 miles of the border with Nigeria’s Adamawa State in the North and Adamawa Regions of Cameroon, the border area with Chad, and the border areas with the Central African Republic (CAR) due to violence, criminal activity, and military operations that sometimes cross into Cameroon. There are Travel Warnings for neighboring Nigeria, Chad, and CAR.
Syria -- State Department warning issued March 22:
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against all travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately. The security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable. Violent conflict between government and armed anti-government groups continues throughout the country. There is a serious risk for kidnappings, bombings, murder, and terrorism. This replaces the Travel Warning dated October 11, 2016.
No part of Syria is safe from violence. Kidnappings, the use of chemical warfare, shelling, and aerial bombardment have significantly raised the risk of death or serious injury. The destruction of infrastructure, housing, medical facilities, schools, and power and water utilities has also increased hardships inside the country.
Terrorist and other violent extremist groups including ISIS and al-Qa’ida’s Syrian affiliateal-Nusrah Front (also known as Jabhat al-Nusrah, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, and other aliases), operate in Syria. Tactics for these groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, and improvised explosive devices. They have targeted major city centers, road checkpoints, border crossings, government buildings, shopping areas, and open spaces, including in Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr provinces. These groups have murdered and kidnapped U.S. citizens, both for ransom and political purposes. U.S. citizens have disappeared within Syria. Public places, such as road checkpoints, border crossings, government buildings, shopping areas, and open spaces, have been targeted. Because of the security situation in Syria, the U.S. government’s ability to help U.S. citizens kidnapped or taken hostage is very limited. Although a ceasefire was announced in December 2016, fighting persists in Syria. Moreover, the ceasefire does not include ISIS or al-Nusrah Front, which have not renounced the use of violence. The ceasefire does not make the security situation in Syria any less dangerous for U.S. citizens.
Afghanistan -- State Department warning issued March 21:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan because of continued instability and threats by terrorist organizations against U.S. citizens. This replaces the Travel Warning issued October 5, 2016.
Travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe due to the ongoing risk of kidnapping, hostage taking, military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, militant attacks, direct and indirect fire, suicide bombings, and insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices (IED). Attacks may also target official Afghan and U.S. government convoys and compounds, foreign embassies, military installations, commercial entities, non-governmental organization (NGO) offices, restaurants, hotels, airports, and educational centers.
Extremists associated with various Taliban networks, ISIS, and members of other armed opposition groups are active throughout the country. ISIS has demonstrated its operational capability, having attacked both Afghan and foreign government facilities. These terrorist groups routinely attack Afghan, Coalition, and U.S. targets with little regard for or the express intent to cause civilian casualties. On January 12, 2017, the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham-Khorosan (ISIS-K) carried out a suicide bomb attack on a mosque, killing 30 and wounding 70. On February 7, 2017, the Afghan Supreme Court was attacked by an insurgent who detonated a suicide vest, killing more than 20 people. On March 1, 2017, Taliban insurgents conducted a complex attack on two separate Afghan police stations in the Kabul area, killing seven and wounding 24. On March 8, 2017, ISIS-K conducted a complex attack on the Afghan National Army Hospital in Kabul City killing more than 50 and wounding more than 90.
Two professors, one American and one Australian, from the American University in Afghanistan were reported kidnapped in Kabul in August 2016. One Australian and one Spanish NGO worker were kidnapped in November and December 2016. A U.S citizen journalist working for National Public Radio and his Afghan assistant were killed when they came under attack in Helmand Province in June 2016, and in August 2016, insurgents fired a rocket at a bus carrying EU and U.S. citizen tourists in Herat Province, wounding six people.
Eritrea -- State Department warning issued February 22:
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Eritrea. The Government of Eritrea restricts the travel of all foreign nationals in the country, including U.S. diplomats. These restrictions make it difficult for the U.S. Embassy to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens outside the city of Asmara. This replaces the Travel Warning dated August 26, 2016.
U.S. citizens are strongly advised to avoid travel near the Eritrean-Ethiopian border and the Southern Red Sea Region because of the presence of large numbers of Eritrean and Ethiopian troops along the contested border area, and because of the military tensions between the two countries. In June 2016, fighting in this region resulted in numerous deaths. U.S. citizens should also avoid travel to the contested Eritrea-Djibouti border region, where military troops patrol and tensions are high.
Lebanon -- State Department warning issued February 15:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon because of the threats of terrorism, armed clashes, kidnapping, and outbreaks of violence, especially near Lebanon’s borders with Syria and Israel. U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should be aware of the risks of remaining in the country and should carefully consider those risks. This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on July 29, 2016.
In the event that the security climate in Lebanon worsens, U.S. citizens will be responsible for arranging their own travel out of Lebanon. The Embassy does not offer protection services to U.S. citizens who feel unsafe. U.S. citizens with special medical or other needs should be aware of the risks of remaining given their condition, and should be prepared to seek treatment in Lebanon if they cannot arrange for travel out of the country.
There is potential for death or injury in Lebanon because of terrorist bombings and attacks. Violent extremist groups operate in Lebanon, including U.S. government-designated terrorist organizations Hizballah, ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Nusrah Front (ANF), Hamas, and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB). ISIL and ANF have claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Lebanon. U.S. citizens have been the targets of terrorist attacks in Lebanon in the past. The threat of anti-Western terrorist activity persists, as does the risk of death or injury as a non-targeted bystander.
El Salvador -- State Department warning issued February 14:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to El Salvador due to the high rates of crime and violence. El Salvador has one of the highest homicide levels in the world and crimes such as extortion, assault and robbery are common. This replaces the Travel Warning for El Salvador dated January 15, 2016.
Gang activity is widespread in El Salvador. There are thousands of gang members operating in the country, including members of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Eighteenth Street (M18). Gangs (maras) focus on extortion, violent street crime, narcotics and arms trafficking. Muggings following ATM or bank withdrawals are common, as are armed robberies at scenic-view stops (miradores). While the majority of the violence occurs between rival gangs and there is no information to suggest U.S. citizens are specifically targeted, its pervasiveness increases the chance of being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Due to armed robberies in national parks, we strongly recommend that hikers in back country areas engage local guides certified by the national or local tourist authority. The National Civilian Police (PNC) has a special tourist police force (POLITUR) to provide security and assistance to visitors. More information can be found on POLITUR’s website.
Nigeria -- State Department warning issued April 5:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Nigeria and recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all but essential travel to Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kano, and Yobe states because the security situation in northeast Nigeria remains fluid and unpredictable. Very poor transportation infrastructure also makes it difficult for the U.S. Mission to provide consular services in these states. All U.S. citizens should have evacuation plans that do not solely rely on U.S. government assistance. Due to the risk of kidnappings, robberies, and other armed attacks, U.S. citizens should also avoid all but essential travel to: Bayelsa, Delta, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, and Zamfara states. This replaces the Travel Warning dated August 3, 2016.
Boko Haram, an extremist group based in the northeast, has targeted churches, schools, mosques, government installations, educational institutions, and entertainment venues in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, Taraba, the Federal Capital Territory, and Yobe states. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians have been displaced as a result of violence in the north. Exercise extreme caution throughout the country due to the threat of indiscriminate violence. U.S. citizens should be vigilant at public gatherings and locations frequented by foreigners. Markets, hotels, restaurants, bars, and places of worship may become targets for terrorist attacks.
Iraq -- State Department warning issued January 31:
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Iraq. Travel within Iraq remains very dangerous, and the ability of the Embassy to assist U.S. citizens facing difficulty is extremely limited. This supersedes the Travel Warning dated July 6, 2016.
U.S. citizens in Iraq are at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence. Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq, including Da'esh (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.) Such groups regularly attack both the Iraqi security forces and civilians. Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S. citizens and western companies throughout Iraq. Kidnappings and attacks by means of improvised explosive devices (IED) occur frequently in many areas of the country, including Baghdad. U.S. citizens should pay particular attention to the possibility of terrorist attacks around religious and civic holidays.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to the Department of Gracias a Dios in Honduras. In addition, the greater urban areas of San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, and La Ceiba have notably high crime and violence rates. This replaces the Honduras Travel Warning dated August 5, 2016.
The U.S. Embassy restricts U.S. government staff from traveling to the Department of Gracias a Dios due to frequent criminal and drug trafficking activity. Infrastructure is weak, government services are limited, and police or military presence is scarce. Those who choose to travel to, or currently reside in, Gracias a Dios should remain alert to local conditions and signs of danger.
Once a glamorous playground for the Hollywood jet set, including Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth, the resort in Guerrero state now has one of the highest murder rates in the world, having fallen victim to vicious gang warfare in recent years.
"Armed groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and may use violence towards travelers," said the State Department.
Overall, the State Department placed Mexico at the second of its four-stage travel advisory levels.
"Exercise increased caution in Mexico due to crime ... violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread," it said.
The advisory underscored the limitations that the U.S. government faces in providing emergency services in many areas of Mexico because U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling to those areas.
Clashes between rival drug gangs contributed to a record number of murders in Mexico last year, according to official data, dealing a fresh blow to President Enrique Pena Nieto's pledge to bring gang violence under control with presidential elections due in July 2018.
In recent months, about a dozen politicians, officials and candidates for elected office have been killed in states where there are struggles between criminal groups for the control of drug trafficking routes. (Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)