The United States Department on Wednesday issued a travel advisory where it warned tourists to completely avoid five Mexican states - due to increasing crime and gang activity.
Guerrero policemen are seen during the arrest of a member of the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities after a series of clashes that left at least 11 people dead at La Concepcion village, Acapulco municipality, in Guerrero state, Mexico, on January 7, 2018.
The state department warns that "in Guerrero state, armed groups operate independently of the government in many areas".
While the State Department has long recommended travelers exercise "increased caution" in Mexico in general because of widespread homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery, the new warning elevates the five states to level 4, the highest level of potential danger.
This announcement includes places in the states of Colima, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Guerrero at the same warning level as war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, the report said.
In Mexico, all five of the states given the highest threat rating are hotspots for the country's violent and powerful drug trafficking organizations. Michoacan was so dominated by a drug cartel that vigilantes took up arms in 2013 to drive them out.
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Chihuahua, where dozens were killed over a two-day span last week, was given a level 3 category, which means "reconsider travel".
Los Angeles Times reports that the advisory is the proof of the surging violence in Mexico, which has claimed almost 22,409 lives in 2017 - more than any year since 1997 when the government start releasing crime data.
"The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Mexico as U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to these areas".
Overall, the country of Mexico is categorized as a 2 - an advisory to "exercise increased caution". Mexico has 31 states, half of which are under level 3 or 4 warnings.
A statement from the Secretary of Tourism of Mexico (Sectur) reported that 80 percent of the more popular foreign tourist destinations such as Cancun, Riviera Maya, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta-Riviera Nayari and Mexico City were not included in the travel advisory. In response to State's latest advisory, the Mexico Tourism Board said the country's "major worldwide tourism destinations have been explicitly listed as having no travel restrictions", referring to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. "We just want to send a signal, which is true, that our destinations are a safe place to visit".