Mexico is the second-most deadly conflict zone on the globe, according to a new study. The country has surpassed both Iraq and Afghanistan to become the world’s most violent country after Syria. Nearly 23,000 people were killed in Mexico in 2016, while around 17,000 were killed in Afghanistan and 16,000 in Iraq during the same time period.
Gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities have taken place on streets and in public places during broad daylight. The Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations and has engaged in an extensive effort to counter criminal organizations that engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico.
The highest numbers of deaths were reported in the states of Sinaloa and Guerrero, known for fighting among competing, increasingly fragmented cartels.
As the Armed Conflict Survey by IISS shows, intentional homicides jumped by 22.8% from 2015 to 2016. Violence continues to increase. The first two months of 2017 were the most violent January and February on record, with 3,779 homicide cases registered by the authorities. The following month was even worse: March 2017 saw 2,020 murders. This was the highest monthly tally since June 2011, a bloody moment in the midst of Mexico’s ‘war on drugs’. In December 2006, President Felipe Calderon deployed the armed forces to the streets with the mission of crushing the cartels. But the resulting conflict brought misery to Mexico: 105,000 people lost their lives in intentional homicides between that month and November 2012.
Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes.
The U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning on December 6, 2016. The statement warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain parts of Mexico due to the activities of criminal organizations. The statement says that U.S. citizens have been murdered in carjacking and highway robberies, most frequently at night and on isolated roads.
Global Affairs Canada does not have a nationwide travel advisory in effect for Mexico but says that travelers should exercise a high degree of caution due to high levels of criminal activity, as well as demonstrations, protests and occasional illegal roadblocks throughout the country. Global Affairs Canada advises against non-essential travel to the northern states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo León (except the city of Monterrey), Sinaloa (with the exception of Mazatlán), Sonora (except the cities of Hermosillo and Guaymas/San Carlos), and Tamaulipas as well as western states of Guerrero (including Acapulco but excluding the cities of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo and Taxco) and Michoacán (excluding the city of Morelia) due to the high levels of violence and organized crime. For the same reason, avoid non-essential travel to the areas of Jalisco state that border the states of Michoacán and Zacatecas, as well as the areas of Colima state that border Michoacán.