Travelers advised to avoid Mexico this spring

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  • The U.S. State Department issued a warning to the nearly 100,000 spring break travelers going to Mexico.
  • The warning was issued as a result of Mexico's increasingly violent drug war.

The U.S. State Department and universities nationwide are alerting the roughly 100,000 students headed to Mexico for spring break to take precautionary measures due to a violent drug war on the United States-Mexico border.

On Feb. 20, the State Department issued a warning that supplanted an initial alert from Oct. 15, 2008 and was scheduled to expire August 20 of this year.

"Mexican drug cartels are engaged in an increasingly violent conflict — both among themselves and with Mexican security services — for control of narcotics trafficking routes along the U.S.-Mexico border," the report said.

The Mexican border cities of Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros have all seen spikes in shootouts, robberies, homicides, petty thefts and carjackings, with U.S. citizens in the area very much at high risk, the report said.

Ciudad Juárez is most under siege as a result of the war. According to Mexican authorities, more than 1,800 people have been killed since January 2008. In the same year, the city had more than 17,000 car thefts and 1,650 carjackings.

Mario Escalante, an agent in the Tucson, Ariz. Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol, said the Mexican drug-related issues are specific to that country and not to those who guard the borders.

"We can't advise as to what people choose to do in Mexico," Escalante said. "We worry about that only once it's on U.S. soil, and would handle any situation like any police or sheriff's department."

Michael Donoghue, a professor of Latin American history, believes four major forces are in play: a disintegration of the Mexican government's control over states, the power the cartels' bribery, the U.S. demand for illegal drugs and the percentage of revenue from U.S. gun shows and companies.

"In many cases these cartels have much more firepower, efficiency and financial resources than various Mexican governors, police chiefs and mayors which has led to a widespread corruption of the governmental system," Donoghue said.

Donoghue estimated that the U.S. demand for drugs from Mexico tops $4 to $7 billion annually in purchases of heroin, cocaine and marijuana. He said this leads to bribery and corruption against Mexican police and officials.

"The flow of billions of U.S. dollars is in effect arming both sides in the increasingly bloody and dangerous drug war along the border with American gun companies reaping enormous profits from both the legal and illegal aspects of the trade," Donoghue added.

Kali Elderbrook, a sophomore in the College of Business Adminstration, is going to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the first time with two of her Alpha Phi sorority sisters. She planned the trip in September, but still noted the concerns to go along with the excitement of visiting a new country.

"I would probably still go, but I don't plan on leaving our resort," Elderbrook said. "There are the general concerns with going on spring break and you never know what can happen."

Chris Traverse, a sophomore at Arizona State University, had gone to Rocky Point, a northwestern Mexican city, with several friends in the past. The advisory prompted him and five friends to call off their trip this spring break.

"Originally, there was a plan to go to Rocky Point," Traverse said. "We switched to Flagstaff, Arizona."

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