Here are some of the more salient excerpts from yesterday's travel warning:
"The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens traveling to and living in Mexico of concerns about the security situation in Mexico, and that it has authorized the departure of the dependents of U.S. government personnel from U.S. consulates in the Northern Mexican border cities of Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros until April 12. Family members of US Government personnel assigned to other areas of Mexico outside the Mexican border states are not affected by this departure measure. This Travel Warning supercedes that of February 22, 2010, and announces the authorized departure of some dependents and updates security incidents.
"Recent violent attacks have prompted the U.S. Embassy to urge U.S. citizens to delay unnecessary travel to parts of Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua states(see details below) and advise U.S. citizens residing or traveling in those areas to exercise extreme caution. Drug cartels and associated criminal elements have retaliated violently against individuals who speak out against them or whom they otherwise view as a threat to their organizations. These attacks include the abduction and murder of two resident U.S. citizens in Chihuahua.
"The situation in the state of Chihuahua, specifically Ciudad Juarez, is of special concern. The U.S. Consulate General recommends that American citizens defer non-essential travel to the Guadalupe Bravo area southeast of Ciudad Juarez and to the northwest quarter of the state of Chihuahua including the city of Nuevo Casas Grandes and surrounding communities. From the United States, these areas are often reached through the Columbus, NM, and Fabens and Fort Hancock, TX, ports of entry. In both areas, American citizens have been victims of drug-related violence."
To read the full travel alert on the US State Department website, please CLICK HERE.
Analysis: First off, I need to remind readers that the State Department has different levels of alerts and warnings for US citizens abroad, based on the level of severity. To review information regarding these different levels, please CLICK HERE. Travel warnings are the most severe of the three, and the State Department issues these after much thought and with care, as they know the warning will usually annoy the country in question's government and often scare the bejesus out of US citizens planning that cruise to Cancun or vacation to Cabo San Lucas.
Second, readers need to know that this situation is serious, and any potential travelers need to make note of the locations specifically mentioned in the travel warning. They're mentioned for very good reasons, i.e. lots of people - including US citizens - are dying there. That being said, there are plenty of places in Mexico that are still safe to visit. But you have to do your homework. The State Department has really good information in the travel section of their website, and you can always call the Embassy in Mexico City or the Consulate in the city closest to where you'll be visiting to get more detailed information.
Above all, be smart, stay informed, and don't take your safety for granted.