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U.S. travel warning on Mexico lists specific violent areas

The U.S. State Departmenthas issued an updated travel warning for tourists planning to visit Mexico, adding more detailed information on drug violence on a state-by-state and city-by-city basis.

The new warning comes in response to concerns by Mexico tourism officials, who worried that previous travel warnings scared off U.S. tourists by generalizing about the threat of crime violence in Mexico.

Mexican officials welcomed the update.

“The Mexico Tourism Board has long advocated for travel advisories which abide by three key [tenets]: context, clarity and specificity,” said Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete, the tourism board’s chief operating officer. “The revised U.S. State Department travel advisory regarding Mexico adheres to these principles and should serve as a model for the rest of the world.”

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U.S. travelers make up about 60% of Mexico’s 22.4 million international visitors, according to Mexican authorities.

The latest warning says 47,515 people were killed in narcotics-related violence in Mexico between Dec. 1, 2006, and Sept. 30, 2011. The number of U.S. citizens reported to the State Department as murdered in Mexico jumped to 120 last year from 35 in 2007.

But, the warning says, tourist destinations are typically not the center of narco-traffic violence.

The last travel warning issued on Mexico, in April, mentioned several states where violence could pose a threat to tourists and generally warned travelers to stay clear of the northern border states.

In contrast, the travel warning issued Wednesday details recent drug-related violence in several individual states and cities. The report can be found on the State Department’s website.

For example, for the state of Aguascalientes in central Mexico, the warning says: “You should defer non-essential travel to the areas of the state that border the state of Zacatecas. The security situation along the Zacatecas border continues to be unstable and gun battles between criminal groups and authorities occur. Concerns include roadblocks placed by individuals posing as police or military personnel and recent gun battles between rival [transnational criminal organizations] involving automatic weapons.”

The Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board issued a statement Thursday, noting that the travel warning does not mention drug-violence problems for the coastal city in the southern state of Jalisco.

“Puerto Vallarta continues to be one of the safest destinations for international travelers,” the tourism board said.

hugo.martin@latimes.com


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