News: Mexico Travel Prohibitions
Story by Lance Cpl. Casey Scarpulla
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. - Over the past few years, more Mexican states have been added to the directive’s prohibited list because of the increase in violence.
Michoacan, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Jalisco, Zacatecas, Sonora and most recently added Nayarit are off-limits to active duty military personnel unless they are executing official travel orders.
The Mission Assurance Office aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., is required to inform service members and their families that the travel restrictions for Mexico have been updated and revised for all Department of Defense personnel.
The travel directive from the Department of State applies only to service members. DOD civilians, dependents, and contractors are urged to abide by the travel prohibitions and advisories, but are not legally required to conform.
“This message does not affect family members of a service member; families can go [to all of Mexico],” said Tim Beeler, Anti-Terrorism Officer for Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. “However, our job is to make people aware of what’s going on down there so they know the risks involved. My recommendation is that I would advise all family members of service members to follow the directive.”
Although a state is prohibited, there are exceptions for travel to certain areas in that state. Exempted areas include Puerto Vallarta, and Guadalajara (Jalisco), Bahia de Banderas (coastal highway resort areas between Nuevo Vallarta and Punta Mita in Nayarit); and Mazatlan (Sinaloa).
Cruises are allowed, so long as service members stay on board when the ship ports at prohibited states.
“My recommendation [to non-military members] is to not get off of the ship, especially if it’s not good enough for the active duty service member,” said Beeler. “So, if I am an active duty member and I take a cruise to Mexico but can’t get off the ship, why would I let my family get off the ship? It’s not worth the risk.”
Crime and violence are serious problems throughout Mexico and U.S. citizens have become victims of homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery.
According to reports by the State Department, 113 U.S. citizens were murdered in Mexico in 2011 and 32 were killed in the first six months of 2012. These numbers only represent the murders that were reported to the United States.
“Most Americans, unless you are doing something you shouldn’t be doing, buying or selling drugs, or associated with someone doing the wrong thing, are not going to get killed,” said Beeler. “But sometimes Americans will be killed just because they are on the wrong corner, the wrong restaurant, wrong facility at the wrong time and someone opens up fire. It’s a hit, one cartel to another, and you’re just caught in the cross fire.”
Personal emergency travel to prohibited states may be approved, depending on the situation. On a case-by-case basis, the Embassy Country Team determines whether a condition is an emergency or not.
For travel to a permitted state in Mexico, a service member must receive approval from a lieutenant colonel or Navy commander. For travel to a prohibited state in Mexico, the request must be submitted to a colonel or Navy captain.
There are other destinations that may not be safe to travel to besides the states that are prohibited. All DOD personnel should consider not traveling to Aguascalientes, Colima, Guerrero, Veracruz, Estado De Mexico or Morelos.
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service provided by the U.S. government. The whole purpose of STEP is to keep American citizens safe. Enrolled U.S. citizens traveling in a foreign country receive travel advisories, dangerous weather condition warnings, and other information from the United States embassy.
“The key is awareness, it’s just knowing – know where you are going, and not just there but on the border and here too, there are a lot of good assets and resources out there that give you everything you need to know,” said Beeler. “If you are planning on going, just do your homework and protect yourself. Make yourself as aware as you can about where you are traveling to, and make an educated decision.”
For more information and further travel regulations refer to USNORTHCOM Force Protection Directive 13-164, or talk to a mission assurance representative.