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How safe is travel to Mexico and Central America?

(NewsNation) — Since the start of 2023, the U.S. Department of State has issued travel advisories for Mexico and four other countries in Central America due to crime.

The State Department says Americans should reconsider travel to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica and El Salvador, popular spring break destinations.

In Mexico, 30 of the 32 states are under some kind of travel advisory for U.S. citizens due to the risk from ongoing cartel violence. Six of those states have a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory issued.

On Saturday, gunmen opened fire at a resort in Guanajuato, Mexico, killing six adults and a 7-year-old child. Officials who reported the attack did not speculate on a possible motive.

Four Americans were kidnapped in Matamoros, Mexico, last month after crossing the border for a medical procedure. Two of the kidnapped Americans were found dead; one was injured.

Incidents like these are prompting U.S. officials to issue travel warnings for the region.

While it’s true that Mexico has a significantly higher homicide rate (28 per 100,000 people) than the U.S. (7 per 100,000 people), data suggests violence against American citizens remains rare.

But high profile cartel violence is causing U.S. lawmakers to urge President Joe Biden to declare Mexican drug cartels “terrorist organizations.”

Mexican officials however, say the move would threaten Mexican sovereignty.

Scores of Mexican army, navy, National Guard troops and local police officers have died in recent years trying to arrest drug cartel members or shut down their drug labs, according to Mauricio Ibarra Ponce de Leon, consul general of Mexico in El Paso.

Leon says his country has increased the number of controlled substances from 14 to 76, placed soldiers and marines in charge of land and seaports to cut down on corruption and seized 6 tons of fentanyl since 2019.