"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," said DPS Director Steven C. McCraw. "However, drug cartel violence and other criminal activity represent a significant safety threat, even in some resort areas."
The DPS, which oversees such statewide law enforcement agencies as the Texas Rangers and the Texas Highway Patrol, has issued similar warnings for several years. This year's bulletin, however, follows the detailed warning issued by the U.S. State Department in early February recommending that travelers avoid some of Mexico's major tourist destinations and keep low profiles.
The State Department ramped up its warnings from previous years due to increases in reported threats. The DPS notes that the new State Department warning urges visitors to bypass all or part of 14 Mexican states, up from 10 in 2011. The biggest tourist hub affected by this year's warning is Acapulco, where the State Department urged Americans not to travel more than two blocks inland from the boulevard that runs along the popular beaches.
The Texas warning reemphasizes the State Department's finding that the number of U.S. citizens murdered in Mexico rose from 35 in 2007 to 120 in 2011. The warning also highlights the persistence of sexual assault around resorts, the use of popular bars and nightclubs as havens by drug dealers, and the high number of narcotic-related homicides reported in Mexico -- 12,903 over the first nine months of 2011.
Though only a small percentage of U.S. travelers are victimized, Mr. McCraw claims, "Many crimes against Americans in Mexico go unpunished, and we have a responsibility to inform the public about safety and travel risks and threats."
Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Arturo Sarukhan chastised Texan officials for their advisory. "As their number one trading partner and largest export market, Mexico believes Texas should be able to more objectively evaluate facts, providing nuance and context, and in doing so, dispel the notion that their motivation is a clear-cut political agenda," Sarukhan said in a statement Tuesday.
Texas is itself a major destination for Spring Break revelers. Local officials on South Padre Island said they expect an increase in visitors to the beach resort this year, with close to 50,000 arriving this month.