The U.S. Embassy has issued a security alert to U.S. citizens for Zacatecas due to a cartel turf war, introducing new restrictions on travel for U.S. government workers.
The alert orders employees not to travel to the state, with the exception of air travel to and from Zacatecas city. “U.S. government employees may not travel to Zacatecas city overland,” the statement said.
The alert urges travelers to pay close attention to their surroundings and monitor local media and call 911 in case of an emergency.
The statement said that violence and kidnapping in the state had intensified and that U.S. citizens there could be at risk. “Zacatecas state has experienced violent turf battles between cartels. The state’s homicide rate in 2021 was more than double the previous year’s rate and was the highest in Mexico. U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) have been victims of kidnapping,” the statement read.
The U.S. Department of State didn’t include Zacatecas on a Do Not Travel advisory on April 13. That advisory told people to reconsider travel to the state, along with Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Guanajuato, Jalisco, México state, Morelos, Nayarit and Sonora. It instructed people to not travel to Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas. A separate security alert specific to Colima was released in early April.
The April 13 advisory recommended increased caution in all other states except Campeche and Yucatán, where normal precautions were recommended. It also instructed citizens to reconsider travel to Mexico due to COVID-19.
Zacatecas is the scene of a bloody turf war between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Sinaloa Cartel that has displaced thousands of people. It is far and away Mexico’s most violent state in terms of homicides per capita, which increased by 143% between 2020 and 2021, according to figures released by the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System. Fresnillo, the state’s second biggest city, was identified as unsafe by 94.3% of residents who participated in a security survey in October.
Police have also felt the effects of the turf war: eight municipalities in Zacatecas had few or no police in November because officers abandoned their jobs due to high levels of violence. The civic group Causa en Común said 16 officers were murdered in the state in the first three months of the year, the highest number in the country. About 80% of state police officers went on an 11 day strike earlier this month.
The government launched Operation Zacatecas II in November, sending almost 4,000 troops to the state in an effort to keep order.
Mexico News Daily