Americans urged to avoid parts of Mexico because of violence

March 15th, 2010 by

MEXICO CITY (seattletimes)— The U.S. State Department is warning Americans to stay away from the Mexican state of Michoacan, where drug cartel members killed 18 federal agents last month.

The alert issued Thursday does not recommend against traveling to Mexico, but says recent violence has prompted the U.S. Embassy to urge Americans to delay unnecessary travel to Michoacan, the home state of Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and the border state of Chihuahua, where two Americans were abducted and killed in July.

The department says Americans traveling in those areas should exercise extreme caution.

Michoacan is home to Monarch butterfly breeding grounds frequented by American tourists. The state erupted in violence last month when La Familia drug cartel launched a series of attacks that killed 18 federal agents and two soldiers across the state after the arrest of a top cartel operative.

Chihuahua is home to Mexico’s deadliest city, Ciudad Juárez, with more than 1,300 murders this year. The alert says Americans should also avoid the Guadalupe Bravo area near Ciudad Juárez, and the northwest quarter of the state, including Nuevas Casas Grandes.

It warns that killings, carjackings and other crime have increased in the past year in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, and in other border cities where there have been shootouts in shopping centers and other public venues during daylight hours.

Criminals have followed and harassed U.S. citizens in their vehicles in the border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and Tijuana, according to the State Department.

Meanwhile, gunmen killed the presiding lawmaker of the state legislature in Guerrero, a drug-plagued southwestern state were Acapulco is located.

The body of leftist congressman Armando Chavarria was found with three gunshot wounds early Thursday in the passenger seat of a vehicle in the state capital of Chilpancingo, according to Guerrero state’s public safety department.

Chavarria’s Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, called it a political crime and said at least 25 of its party militants have been killed so far this year. Police say they have not made arrests or determined a motive.

Guerrero has suffered a wave of violent crime linked to drug trafficking. State police said three human heads were found Thursday in ice boxes in the town of Coyuca de Catalan. The mutilated bodies were in bags nearby. A message from alleged drug traffickers also was found.

Drug violence has killed more than 11,000 people since Calderon launched his nationwide crackdown on organized crime, sending thousands of troops to drug hotspots.

The government says most of the killings are the result of rival smugglers battling for lucrative routes into the United States.

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