WEST TEXAS - Spring break is here and there's a warning for anyone planning to travel South of the border. An Austin-based intelligence gathering agency is concerned about drug cartels and about tourists being caught in the crossfire.
That intelligence agency is called Stratfor. In their report out Thursday, they stated that many tourists come to Mexico with a big misconception. Namely, that the drug cartels would avoid interfering with the tourism industry and only target Mexican citizens. However the agency says that's not the case.
Spring Break is upon us and thousands of students will be traveling South of the border to reboot their minds from studying. But Stratfor says even though the overall violence decreased last year, the cartel operations and the competition between them continues. This has an affect on several regions in Mexico, including cities where tourists flock.
Stratfor says Puerto Vallarta has the country's largest and most powerful drug lords and maintains a trafficking presence. Cancun is the area where Los Zetas are very active, because it's a port of entry for drugs coming from South America through Mexico, on their way to the U.S. border. Just last year, Stratfor sited Acapulco as the second most dangerous city in the world with 143 murders per 100,000 people.
The agency say's tourists could get caught in the cartel crossfire.
"It's the struggle and turmoil between these cartels that has resulted in the violence that we're seeing in some of these cities. We've seen an increase in gun fights, beheadings, kidnappings related to this cartel struggle in cities such as Acapulco and Mazatlan. In fact, we've seen cruise ships begin ports of call in these cities, due to the danger presented in these gun fights," Scott Stewart, Vice President of Stratfor, said.
Startfor says while the cartels have not intentionally targeted tourists, their violence has often been on public display in popular tourist districts.
They suggest that if you are staying at a resort, plan on remaining there and avoid going into town, especially at night.