LOS ANGELES - If you have upcoming spring break plans for Mexico, the State Department is strongly advising you reconsider travel to more than a handful of Mexican states that are reporting increased threats of "crime and kidnapping."
Of Mexico's 32 states, just two are currently listed under the State Department's lowest level "normal precautions' designation" - Campeche and Yucatan.
Additionally, officials with the U.S. Treasury Department are warning Americans to be on the lookout for a suspect who is currently being sought for extortion and may be spotted in popular tourist areas.
Sergio Armando Orozco Rodriguez, also known as "Chocho," is an alleged member of the Jalisca New Generation Cartel. Officials claim Chocho extorts local businesses for protection funds in his hometown of Puerto Vallarta, a popular spring break destination.
According to the U.S. Treasury, Chocho and his affiliates have close ties to nightclubs and restaurants in the city's main strip, enabling them to launder drug proceeds.
Last month, 33-year-old Orange County public defender Elliot Blair was found dead in Rosarito during a one-year wedding celebration with his wife. A Mexican prosecutor described Blair's death as an unfortunate accident, saying he fell off the hotel's balcony after ingesting a significant amount of alcohol. Blair's family, however, does not believe he was intoxicated and fell. They believe he was the victim of a brutal crime.
In the latest update to Blair's case, Rosarito police are accused of extorting money from Blair and his wife less than two hours before he died, according to reports.
Police stopped Blair for reportedly rolling through a stop sign on his way back from a restaurant. The officers allegedly demanded money from the couple who gave them $160 before driving away.
Blair died hours later after falling from an open hotel walkway, according to local authorities. Blair's family has expressed frustration with Mexican authorities over a lack of communication and has since launched their own independent investigation into his death.
Other countries that are under the same highest-level travel warning include Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Ukraine, North Korea, and Syria.
If you must travel to Mexico, officials strongly recommend the following:
- Review the U.S. Embassy's webpage on COVID-19.
- Visit the CDC’s web page on Travel and COVID-19.
- Keep traveling companions and family back home informed of your travel plans. If separating from your travel group, send a friend your GPS location. If taking a taxi alone, take a photo of the taxi number and/or license plate and text it to a friend.
- Use toll roads when possible and avoid driving alone or at night. In many states, police presence and emergency services are extremely limited outside the state capital or major cities.
- Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos.
- Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
- Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy on Facebook and Twitter.
- Review the Country Security Report for Mexico.
- Mariners planning travel to Mexico should check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts, which include instructions on reporting suspicious activities and attacks to Mexican naval authorities.
- Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.