Mexico: Spring Break, Beaches — and Bloodshed

New travel advisories issued for Americans about Mexico

Thousands of American college students will flock to Mexico for spring break as that country's drug war grows more bloody.

The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory Friday warning of an "increasingly violent" conflict between the government and drug cartels.

"Some recent Mexican army and police confrontations with drug cartels have resembled small-unit combat," the advisory said. "Large firefights have taken place in many towns and cities across Mexico."

In just the past week:

  • In Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, the police chief of Mexico's largest border city quit after cartel hitmen started killing police officers and threatened to kill more until he resigned. Police went on high alert, travelling in groups with pistols in their hands.
  • In Reynosa, across from McAllen, at least six people died in running battles between soldiers and gunmen armed with grenades and bazookas.
  • In the state of Chihuahua, which includes Juarez, gunmen opened fire on the governor's convoy, killing one of his bodyguards and injuring two others.

Last week, the University of Arizona formally discouraged students from traveling to Mexico for spring break.

The University of Texas student newspaper, the Daily Texan, wrote an editorial,"Peril in Mexico," noting the University of Arizona advisory and urging UT students to "heed this warning."

The University of Texas at El Paso shared the State Department's advisory with students "to advise them of the risks... and ensure (they) take appropriate precautions for their safety," said Richard Adauto, UTEP's executive vice president.

But demand for Mexican vacations is as high as ever, some travel agents say.

"You have to make a distinction between the border incidents that are going on and the places like Playacar, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, which are exceedingly safe," said Terry Denton, president of the Travel Leaders travel agency in Fort Worth.

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