This is an annual report produced
in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Consulate in
Mérida. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to
gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in the three Mexican states on
the Yucatán Peninsula: Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo, which include the
tourist destinations of Cancún, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen,
Tulum, and the coastal area referred to as the Riviera Maya. For more in-depth
information, review OSAC’s Mexico country page for original OSAC
reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be
available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
The current U.S.
Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses
Mexico at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution
due to crime and kidnapping. While the State Department assesses some Mexican
states at higher Travel Advisory levels, each of the three states in the Mérida
consular district remain at Level 2. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Mérida as being a MEDIUM-threat location for
crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government
interests. According to Government of Mexico statistics, Yucatán and Campeche
are among the safest states in Mexico. Homicides increased to record
levels in Quintana Roo in 2017 and 2018, but fell back
slightly in 2019. Most of the homicides in Quintana
Roo appeared to be targeted assassinations linked to
organized crime. However, turf battles between criminal groups resulted in
violent crime in areas foreign travelers frequent. Shooting
incidents injuring or killing bystanders have occurred.
directly attributed to criminal groups varies in type and frequency
throughout the peninsula, but is generally low. While no evidence
indicates that criminals specifically target U.S. citizens, criminals usually
choose victims based on perceived wealth, vulnerability, and
inattentiveness. Exercise increased caution throughout the
peninsula. Should you find yourself involved in an incident, do not
escalate the situation.
Reduce the chances of being the
victim of a crime at tourist destinations by traveling with a trusted
individual and being cognizant of alcohol consumption. Do not accept
drinks from strangers, and always watch your drink. There have been reports of individuals falling ill or
blacking out after consuming unregulated alcohol. The Mexican
Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk (COFEPRIS) is
responsible for inspecting hotels, restaurants, or other establishments for
health violations, including reports of unregulated alcohol. Contact COFEPRIS for more information or to
file a report. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and
Outs and Considerations for
Additionally, if you feel you
have been the victim of unregulated alcohol or another serious health violation,
notify the American Citizen Services unit at the Consulate General
in Mérida or one of the Consular Agencies listed at the end of this
report. Many vehicular accidents and incidents of crime affecting
U.S. citizens involve the excess consumption of alcohol or individuals
separated from their traveling companions. Review OSAC’s report, Shaken: The Don’ts of
Be careful of cash transactions
on the street. A hurried transaction for merchandise often leaves the
customer with shoddy or counterfeit goods, out-of-circulation
valueless currency, or incorrect change. Many shops and vendors
readily accept U.S. dollars at their own exchange rate.
The low rate of criminal
convictions contributes to the high rate of crime. Although there is no pattern
of criminals specifically targeting foreign or U.S.
businesses/personnel, criminals will target victims based on an
appearance of prosperity, vulnerability, or a lack of awareness. Armed robbery,
kidnapping, car theft, credit card fraud, and various forms of
residential/street crime are daily concerns. Criminals can easily resell
jewelry (including expensive watches) and cellular phones in illegal markets.
Although Mexico has strict gun-control laws, criminals often carry handguns or
knives. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should
Organized criminal gangs continue
to cause significant levels of violence throughout parts of the country. Mexico
is experiencing a combination of conditions that collectively degrade the
security environment in certain areas. The government has captured some of its
most wanted criminals. Consequently, organized criminal groups are becoming
much less organized and disciplined. The northern half of Mexico had been a
higher-threat area, primarily due to organized criminal conflicts and
competition for drug trafficking routes to the U.S. However, recent
statistics show that violence is on the rise in central and southern states as
Various groups have splintered
into smaller gangs, which have branched out into different illegal business
activities, and associated violence is spreading across Mexico. One common
practice is for gangs to charge protection fees or add their own tax to
products/services, with the threat of violence for those who fail to pay.
Extortionists have targeted foreign and U.S. companies, attacking some for
not responding to demands. Some criminal groups will mandate that individuals
or even whole communities work for them as lookouts or couriers. Others will
threaten municipal and state administrators into accepting corrupt practices. Beheadings,
lynching, torture, and other gruesome displays of violence, as well as high
numbers of forced disappearances, have become routine occurrences in some
locations. Criminals have killed numerous journalists and bloggers for
reporting on these incidents. Regarding cartel violence,
wrong-place/wrong-time incidents present the greatest threat to personal
safety. The best ways to reduce the risk is to practice good personal security
habits, especially maintaining high situational awareness and promptly departing
from potentially dangerous situations.
Credit card security remains a concern, especially in the tourist
areas of Quintana Roo. There have been reports of criminal use of credit
cards. There are numerous reports in which criminals skimmed U.S.
credit/debit card numbers, stealing the money in their debit accounts or
fraudulently charging their credit cards. Skimming is the theft of credit card
information by an employee of a legitimate merchant or bank, manually copying
down numbers or using a magnetic stripe reader or using a camera and skimmer
installed in an ATM. In addition to skimming, the risk of physical theft of
credit or debit cards also exists; criminals may also acquire card data
manually when cards are handed to or left momentarily with employees of
businesses. Try to use ATMs in bank branches during business
hours. Mexican establishments accept U.S. dollars widely. Portable
credit card terminals are widely available in Mexico; always request
the establishment bring a portable credit card terminal
to charge a credit card in your physical presence. Review OSAC’s
reports, The Overseas
Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.
Social engineering of data for
scams, kidnapping, and extortion schemes is a cybersecurity issue in the
region. Police indicate that in most kidnapping and extortion cases, the
victims were targets because of the large amount of personal information
available on social media accounts. Mexican citizens are usually the targets of
this type of cybercrime, but tourists are not immune to criminal exploitation
based on their social media activities.
Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for
Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile
Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical
Road Safety and
Driving in Mexico requires
vigilance. Drivers are not uniformly experienced, and often drive
cars in disrepair. Be alert for vehicles moving slower than the rest of
the traffic flow, and for vehicles speeding through traffic signals at the last
minute. Give a wide berth to public buses and trucks.
Minor steering mistakes that drivers
can normally correct on a road with wide and level shoulders often cannot be
corrected easily, causing drivers to lose control of their
vehicles. Many vehicles drive with defective or inoperable
lights at night. Signage and traffic lights are improving, but are not always
clear. Road damage is not always quickly repaired, leaving potholes that can
damage your car or cause drivers to swerve or brake unexpectedly.
Motor vehicle accidents are a
leading cause of U.S. citizen deaths in Mexico. If you have an emergency while
driving, dial 911. On a cuota or
any other major highway, contact the Green Angels, a fleet of trucks with bilingual
crews, by dialing 078.
A variety of road conditions
exists throughout the region. Toll (cuota) highways are comparable to
U.S. interstate highway standards with multiple traffic lanes and broad paved
shoulders. The cuotas generally have better lighting, frequent
police patrols, fewer access points (on/off-ramps), and
are generally a safer method of overland transit, but their
isolation leaves travelers vulnerable to crime, especially at
night. Speed, nighttime travel, weather (especially the summer rainy
season), unfamiliarity with the road, lack of lighting, and other elements are
contributing factors to serious traffic accidents and incidents on
highways. Drivers can reduce the risk of carjacking by limiting intercity
travel to daylight hours. Drivers on Cancún-Mérida or Playa del
Carmen-Mérida itineraries should use toll roads for safety and
Non-toll (libre) highways are
usually in poorer condition. They are usually two-lane roads with no shoulder.
There are more reported incidents of carjacking and shootouts between rival
criminal groups, particularly after dark, on the libre highways.
Plan routes ahead of travel,
and notify family/friends of your itinerary. Keep a charged cell phone with you
and know how to reach friends and family in an emergency. Ensure vehicles are
roadworthy and maintain a full-size spare tire in case of a flat.
Road conditions in urban areas can
also vary considerably. In upscale or tourist neighborhoods of major cities,
the roads are in good condition, whereas roads are
often in poor condition in marginalized areas. There are
large speed bumps installed around major cities, including on some highways,
that often lack appropriate markings. Drivers should be alert for
changing road conditions. Drivers routinely disobey even the most fundamental
traffic laws and commonly treat red lights like stop signs, crossing as soon as
they have checked for opposing traffic.
Drivers on roads and
highways may encounter government checkpoints, which often include a military
staff. The government has deployed National Guard and military
personnel to combat organized criminal groups. Police also set up various
administrative checkpoints in and around cities (speed control, sobriety
checkpoints) and along the highways (vehicle registration
checkpoints). However, criminal organizations sometimes erect
their own unauthorized checkpoints and have killed/abducted motorists who fail
to stop and/or pay a “toll.” Likewise, self-defense groups have established
checkpoints in their communities and have shot and wounded travelers who fail
to stop. When approaching a checkpoint, regardless of whether it is official,
cooperate and avoid any actions that may appear suspicious or
U.S. driver’s licenses are valid
in Mexico. Mexican law requires that only owners drive their vehicles or that
the owner be inside the vehicle. Failing to abide by this law may lead to
impoundment and a fine equal to the value of the vehicle. Mexican citizens who
are not also U.S. Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) or U.S. citizens may not
operate U.S.-registered vehicles in Mexico. Mexican insurance
is mandatory for all vehicles, including rental vehicles; insurance
associated with U.S. credit cards is insufficient. Maintain Mexican liability
insurance in the event of a vehicle accident. Driving under the influence of
alcohol, using a mobile device while driving, and driving through a yellow light
are all illegal in Mexico.
It is common for strangers to
approach vehicles asking for directions or change, handing out flyers, washing
windows, or selling goods. Be
alert, lock doors, and keep windows up far enough in
case they are not well intentioned. When stopped in traffic, leave
adequate distance between vehicles to escape. Do not stop to assist
strangers whose vehicles appear broken down.
Park inside a residential or
hotel compound, in a parking lot with an attendant, or at least within
view of the location of your visit. When parking in the lot of a
shopping facility, park as close as possible to the store entrance and away
from dumpsters, bushes, or large vehicles.
Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas:
Best Practices, and Evasive Driving
Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.
Check with your U.S. auto
insurance provider regarding international coverage. Driving requires
local liability insurance, which, in some cases, you must purchase
separately from a Mexican insurance provider or through a rental car
Local commercial and municipal
buses and taxis are readily available in most cities. Drivers can be
untrained and do not always follow the rules of the road. Vehicles may be
poorly maintained or in disrepair. Accidents are
common. First-class commercial bus service between major cities and
tourist areas exists.
The Consulate does not
recommend using libre taxis, those that pick up fares on the
street after customers hail them; they may have criminal links. Sitio (radio-dispatched)
taxis are far safer, more reliable, and worth the added expense. Patrons
cannot hail these types of taxis from the street; they must order them by phone
or meet at a designated taxi stand. In addition, the Consulate recommends
that government employees use ride-sharing apps that allow
consumers to verify the driver and vehicle number. Note that not all
platforms operate in all areas.
The Consulate advises
that its employees fly, rather than drive, between many Mexican
Airports are generally secure and
well policed. Sitio taxis are usually available from a kiosk in the arrival
terminal of the airport and require travelers to prepay fares at the kiosk
before exiting the airport and boarding a taxi. For
arrivals to the Cancún airport (CUN) for tourist destinations in
Quintana Roo, consider pre-booked private transfer services.
The U.S. Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Mexico’s Civil Aviation Authority
as compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
aviation safety standards for oversight of Mexico’s air carrier
Be prepared for U.S.-styled
security screening and unpredictable wait times and travel delays from all
airports in the region.
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed all posts in Mexico as being LOW-threat
locations for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government
The U.S. Embassy focuses on
Mexico as a potential transit country for foreign terrorist groups to conduct
operations against the U.S. There are no known foreign terrorist organizations
operating/residing in or transiting through Mexico, and there is
no evidence that any terrorist group has targeted U.S. citizens in Mexico.
Mexico does not provide safe haven to terrorists or terrorist
groups. However, the nature of the border and the ready access to
human traffickers, lax immigration controls, the abundance of fake Mexican
travel documents and Mexico's geographic location potentially make the
country an attractive transit point for transnational
terrorists. These vulnerabilities make cross-border transit of people and
goods a key concern. Businesses conducting cross-border trade should be
aware of this vulnerability, as terrorist and criminal organizations could use
legitimate business transport to traffic people or items across
borders. To mitigate this risk, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
operates the C-TPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership
Against Terrorism) program in Mexico.
Local authorities cooperate with
relevant U.S. government agencies on persons of interest. Criminal
organizations have used terror-like tactics (e.g. car bombs, grenades) to
attack each other and security forces. Though they commit gruesome
acts of violence designed to terrorize, the purpose of these
acts is criminal in nature, directed largely at rival gangs, and not
for a larger political agenda.
Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
against Mexican politicians is common and stems from widespread
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Mérida as being a MEDIUM-threat location
for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government
interests. While demonstrations occasionally occur, they generally remain
peaceful, focus on domestic Mexican policy issues, and do not rise to a level
of civil unrest. Taxi strikes and road blockades by taxi drivers have occurred
in Quintana Roo in protest of ridesharing platforms. The Quintana Roo
government has wavered on permitting these services; their long-term legality
and availability is not yet determined.
Protesters in Mexico may block
traffic on roads, including major thoroughfares, or take control of tollbooths
on highways. Those who encounter protesters demanding unofficial
tolls generally may to pass upon payment. Non-Mexican
nationals should avoid participating in demonstrations and other
activities that authorities might deem political, as Mexican law prohibits
political activities by foreign citizens and such actions may result in
detention and/or deportation. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
Mayan communities have ongoing disputes and legal cases
involving land, water, and other issues, but they rarely
There have been no reports of
anti-U.S. sentiment towards U.S. citizens or interests (official or
non-official). U.S. interests are generally not targets of political
violence. Many Mexican citizens have visas for entry into the United
States, and frequently travel there for both business and
During the Atlantic hurricane
season (June 1-November 30), weather emergencies may affect the Yucatán Peninsula. Quintana
Roo tends to suffer the greatest effects from Atlantic
hurricanes; however, storms have caused flooding and disruption of
utility services throughout the peninsula. Minor tropical storms can
develop into hurricanes very quickly, limiting the time available for a safe
evacuation. Travelers in affected regions have had to delay
their departure due to infrastructure damage to airports and limited
flight availability. Travelers should apprise family and friends of
their whereabouts and keep in close contact with their tour operator, hotel
staff, business contacts, and/or local officials for evacuation
instructions in the event of a weather emergency. Monitor local radio, the National
Weather Service and Mexican weather authorities (in
Avoid driving during and after
rainstorms; inadequate drainage creates street flooding and large,
submerged potholes. Heavy rains may leave sections of roads washed out
In southern Quintana Roo, when
traveling south of Felipe Carrillo Puerto or east of Jose Maria Morelos,
serious communication challenges exist. Cellular and Internet service are
Portions of all three
states are very rural and lack significant infrastructure and
adequate medical facilities.
Carmen, Campeche is a hub for Mexican and foreign oil
workers with vast littoral oil fields, and hosts numerous foreign
companies performing service contracts. In the past few
years, there have been notable life-safety accidents in this
sector, including rig fires and collapses.
Mexico appears on the Watch List
in the 2019 Special 301 Report,
noting inadequate intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement and the wide
availability of pirated/counterfeit goods, mostly via physical and virtual
markets. Criminal organizations are significantly involved in the counterfeit
and pirated goods trade. Enforcement efforts suffer from weak coordination
among federal, state, and municipal officials; limited resources for
prosecutions; lack of long-term sustained investigations to target high-level
suppliers; and the need for deterrent level penalties.
The U.S. continues to encourage
Mexico to provide its customs officials with ex-officio authority,
to allow the Attorney General Offices the authority to prosecute transshipments
of alleged counterfeit and pirated goods, and to enact legislation to
strengthen its copyright regime, including the World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO) Internet Treaties. The U.S. also continues to work with
Mexico to resolve IPR concerns through bilateral, regional, and other means of
The law covering misappropriation
of trade secrets also covers economic espionage activity. The three sources of
trade secrets law are the Industrial Property Law, Federal Criminal Code, and
NAFTA, all of which provide fines and criminal penalties for misappropriation
of trade secrets. There have been extremely limited prosecutions of trade
secret misappropriation due to onerous legal requirements and evidentiary
issues tied to proving theft of digital files.
Exercise caution when considering
investments or purchasing real estate, and be aware of the aggressive
tactics some sales representatives use. Before initiating a real estate
purchase or time-share investment, consult with a Mexican attorney to learn
about important regulations and laws that govern real property.
Cargo theft remains a key area of
concern for U.S. and foreign companies. FreightWatch International ranks the
level of cargo crime in Mexico as “severe,” its worst ranking, primarily
because the supply chain continues to face threats from cargo criminals,
corrupt law enforcement personnel, and, to a smaller extent, organized crime.
Insurance policies have increased as a result; some no longer provide coverage
for overnight cargo travel.
The issue of femicide, defined as
killing a woman because of her gender (as opposed to any killing of a
woman) has been a major issue in Mexico, and is a federal offense
punishable by 40 to 60 years in prison. It is also a criminal offense in all
states. According to Interior Secretariat statistics, in the first six months
of 2019, prosecutors and attorneys general opened 387 investigations into
402 cases of femicide throughout the country.
Rape and sexual assault are
serious problems in some resort areas. Many incidents occur at night or during
the early morning hours, in hotel rooms, on hotel grounds, or on deserted
beaches. Assailants have drugged the drinks of victims before assaulting them.
Pay attention to your surroundings and maintain positive control
of your drink. Review OSAC’s report, Shaken: The Don’ts of
The State of Yucatán
has criminalized the distribution of “revenge pornography” and
“sextortion.” Individuals may be prosecuted for publishing or
distributing intimate images, audio, videos, or texts without the consent
of the other party. Review the State Department’s webpage on security
for female travelers.
Same-sex sexual relations are
legal in Mexico. The law provides for protections against discrimination based
on gender identity. Travelers will find more openness and acceptance in urban
areas, and conservative stances in rural areas. Discrimination based on
sexual orientation and gender identity was prevalent, despite a gradual
increase in public tolerance of LGBTI+ individuals, according to public opinion
surveys. There were reports the government did not always investigate and punish
those complicit in abuses, especially outside Mexico City. A poll conducted
during the year found six of every 10 members of the LGBTI+ community
reported experiencing discrimination in the past year, and more than half
suffered hate speech and physical aggression. Civil society groups claimed
police routinely subjected LGBTI+ persons to mistreatment while in
custody. Due to sporadic reports of violence targeting LGBTI+ individuals, travelers should
exercise discretion in identifying themselves publicly as LGBTI+. Review the
State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.
The Jewish community
experiences low levels of anti-Semitism, but there are reports of
some anti-Semitic expressions through social media. Jewish community
representatives report good cooperation with the government and other religious
and civil society organizations in addressing rare instances of such
acts. The Catholic Multimedia Center reported criminal groups targeted
priests and other religious leaders in some parts of the country and subjected
them to extortion, death threats, and intimidation. Review OSAC’s
report, Freedom to Practice,
and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.
Travelers with disabilities
should consult individual hotels and facilities in advance of travel to ensure
they are accessible. Mexican law prohibits discrimination against persons with
physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment and
education, as well as access to health care, transportation, and other
services, but the government does not enforce the law
effectively. Public buildings and facilities often do not comply with
the law requiring access for persons with disabilities. Review the State
Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.
Mexico is a major
drug-producing and transit nation. Drug trafficking continues to be a
significant issue throughout the country, affecting the security climate
and influencing local politics. Drug-related violence in Mexico
mostly involves those involved in the drug trade or those fighting against
to narco and transnational criminal organizations occurs in
the tourist areas of Quintana Roo, and occasionally in Campeche
and Yucatán. The infrequent reports of travelers
as drug-related crime victims frequently link the victim to
narcotics use or purchase, trafficking, or associating
with cartel members. The primary concern stemming from drug-related
crimes is the potential for bystander or “wrong place/wrong time” violence.
Although infrequent, this potential threat is important to consider in Quintana
Roo, as homicides and violent incidents have
increased in public areas visitors frequent.
Mexico is the world's
third-largest producer of opium, with poppy cultivation in 2015 yielding a
potential production of 475 metric tons of raw opium. The government
conducts the largest independent illicit-crop eradication program in the world.
Mexico continues to be the primary transshipment country for
U.S.-bound cocaine from South America, with an estimated 95% of annual cocaine
movements toward the U.S. stopping in Mexico. Major drug
syndicates (TCOs) control most of the drug trafficking
throughout the country. Mexico is a producer and distributor of ecstasy,
a major supplier of heroin, and the largest foreign
supplier of marijuana and methamphetamine to the U.S. market.
The number of kidnappings
reported throughout Mexico, while difficult to determine, is
concerning. Most cases go unreported to authorities, as the popular belief
is that the police may be involved or are unable to resolve the
situation. Victims of traditional kidnappings are physically abducted and
held captive until a ransom is paid. Most cases reported to
U.S. Mission Mexico have been kidnapping for ransom (KFR). In some KFR
cases, the captors receive a ransom and set the victim free; in others, the
captors kill the victim despite having received a ransom. Kidnappings for
ransom in the Yucatán Peninsula remain an anomaly.
The FBI investigated 219
kidnapping events in Mexico in 2019 (106 events in 2018). In 95 of them, the
victim was a U.S. citizen, and in 22, the victim was a U.S. Legal Permanent
Resident. Of the cases, 135 were KFRs, 73 were virtual kidnappings, and in
11 there was no ransom demand.
The number of reported express
kidnappings are occurring with more frequency, but are still uncommon, and
even less common among tourists or visitors. Express kidnappings take advantage
of the 24-hour industry-wide withdrawal limit placed on ATM
cards, holding victims for 24-48 hours to maximize withdrawal
amounts. A common modus operandi for express kidnappings is to
target passengers using libre taxis; two or three armed
accomplices will enter the taxi a few minutes into the trip. The
term “express kidnapping” also applies to the kidnapping of random
victims held for brief periods where kidnappers demand only small ransom
amounts. A typical scenario may last for several hours and settle for the
peso-equivalent of a few hundred or thousand dollars. Few official U.S.
government employees have suffered this type of crime, but many
Mexican-national employees of the Mission either have been victims
themselves or know a victim.
The Yucatán Peninsula states
experience a few telephonic extortions and frauds (virtual
kidnappings). These extortion telephone calls vary in style, but the
methodology is often the same. In these cases, there is no actual kidnapped
individual. The victim is actually a person who receives a
telephone call. Callers say that they have kidnapped a loved one and often include
a crying/pleading voice immediately after answering the call but before the
kidnapper gets on the phone. Callers intend to confuse the victim and trick
them into giving away important information. The voice will usually be crying
and/or hysterical, making it difficult to identify and increasing the
likelihood that the victim will believe it is their loved one. Criminals use
fear and timing against victims. They plan their calls to coincide with times
when it is difficult to contact the victim (e.g. when children are on
their way to/from school).
Alternatively, the callers will
obtain the cell phones of two family members. They will call both victims at
the same time and claim to have kidnapped the other. They use fear and the
threat of violence to keep both victims on the line while they urge them to pay
a ransom. Once the kidnappers have obtained as much money as they feel
they can, they end the call. They may demand that the victims deliver the
ransom in person, which can turn into a real kidnapping, or that they send the
money electronically. Variations use callers claiming to be lawyers or police
looking to get a family member out a bad situation. They pressure the target to
pay them to waive charges or to bribe alleged corrupt officials to free their
loved one and avoid a long, expensive judicial process.
Virtual kidnappers call Mexican
and international numbers alike, and often use information obtained from social
networking websites. Some originate from Mexican prisons. A
variation affecting travelers at hotels is an extortion-by-deception scheme,
wherein extortionists call a victim and convince them to isolate themselves
from family/friends until they receive a ransom. The criminals coerce the
victim (by threat of violence) to remain isolated and to provide phone numbers
for the victim's family/loved ones. The criminals contact the victim's family
and extract a ransom. Often, the callers make statements to suggest
To reduce the likelihood of
receiving a virtual kidnapping call, answer the phone with only a “hello” and
make the other person ask for you by name and know the details of your family’s
itinerary and contact information (e.g. landline and cell phone numbers). Never
provide personal information to someone who calls or approaches you, and do not
post personal information on social networking sites.
As a precaution, vary
routes/times and be alert to possible surveillance, noting any individual who
appears out of place. When hiring domestic help, vet them by identifying
references. Ensure that they receive training not to volunteer information to
strangers or to allow access to workers without prior
Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The
Weapons laws in Mexico vary by
state, but it is generally illegal for travelers to carry weapons of any kind
including firearms, knives, daggers, brass knuckles, as well as ammunition
(even used shells). Illegal firearms trafficking from the United States to
Mexico is a major concern, and the Department of State warns all U.S. citizens
against taking any firearm or ammunition into Mexico. If authorities
catch you entering Mexico with firearms or ammunitions, you will likely
face severe penalties, including prison time. Read the State Department’s
webpage on customs and import restrictions for
information on what you cannot take into or out of other countries.
The emergency line
in Mexico is 911. Generally,
Mexican police must concentrate their limited resources on urban
areas. For Quintana Roo, Yucatán, and Campeche, police presence and
emergency response are extremely limited outside of the state capitals,
population centers, and tourist areas. State Police dedicate some
resources to rural areas where there may be little or no municipal rule of law,
but response times are usually high, and police prioritize cases of
active threats or violent crime. Levels of professionalism vary greatly
among police agencies. Consequently, citizens are often indifferent to
In some instances, U.S. citizens
have become victims of harassment, mistreatment, or extortion by law
enforcement and other officials. Authorities have cooperated in investigating
some cases, but one must have the officer's name, badge number, and patrol car
number to pursue a complaint effectively. Note this information if you have a
problem with police or other officials. Be aware that offering a bribe to
a public official to avoid a ticket or other penalty is a crime. Cooperate with
the police if they stop or question you.
The general perception is
that most victims do not report crimes due to fear of reprisals by
TCOs or the police, the belief that police are corrupt, or the feeling that
nothing would come from such reports. The net result is that most
crimes go unreported or uninvestigated. Reporting crime can be a
bureaucratic, time-consuming process, and is widely perceived to have limited
effectiveness. Federal and state security forces have limited capability
to respond to violence in many areas.
Reporting crimes can be a long,
frustrating experience. Victims must make a complaint (denuncia) to
police or the local branch of the State Prosecutor’s Office (Ministerio Publico).
When making a denuncia, the burden of proof is on the individual to
substantiate that a crime occurred. Even after filing a denuncia properly,
the complainant must ratify it several days later. Satisfying this
requirement is not practical for many visitors on short stays.
Police rarely investigate
non-violent or minor property crimes. Crimes against foreigners are likely to
get more attention from the authorities than crimes against Mexican citizens.
Despite the substantial obstacles to reporting a crime, the
U.S. Mission encourages all U.S. victims of crime to report the crime
to the Ministerio Publico and the American Citizen
Services office of the Embassy or nearest Consulate.
Not all uniformed police perform
investigative functions or can take denuncias. In some cases, their
roles are to patrol and prevent crimes. The Tourism Police specifically
polices tourist areas and is commonly the only unit that
speaks English. Its main purpose is to enhance the safety of
tourist areas by deterring crime and responding to accidents. Tourist
police cannot take denuncias, but can assist
travelers in contacting authorities who can. Download the State
Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
of state and federal police agencies is similar to that in
the U.S., but law enforcement capabilities are not comparable to U.S.
standards. Police corruption and police involvement in criminal activity
is common. Generally, police receive low wages, are vulnerable to
corruption, and receive less training than their U.S. counterparts.
The Government of Mexico has
recently dissolved the Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF)
and stood up the National Guard (Guardia Nacional) whose mission,
make-up, and mandate differ across Mexican states, where immigration
enforcement is often the Guard’s priority mission. The Guard is not
self-sufficient and relies on the army (SEDENA) and navy (SEMAR) to conduct
policing and security functions, and to combat organized criminal groups. The
National Guard (Guardia Nacional) is composed of personnel from SEDENA, SEMAR,
and Federal Police.
- The General Procurement Office (Procuraduria General de
la Republica, PGR) of the Mexican Attorney General is responsible for
investigating and prosecuting federal crimes. The General Procurement Office
(Procuraduria General de Justicia, PGJ) of each state/city oversees
investigating and prosecuting state and local crimes.
- The Interior Secretariat (Secretaría de Gobernación,
SEGOB) oversees the Mexican Immigration Service (INAMI), whose officers have
the right to detain suspected undocumented aliens and may deport them without
formal deportation proceedings.
- The Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit (Secretaría de
Hacienda y Crédito Público) deploys customs officers (Aduana)
to borders and international airports to interdict contraband.
- The Bank of Mexico (Banco de México) operates its own
security division charged with enforcing banking and monetary laws, including
cases of counterfeiting, fraud, and money laundering.
- State-level police (Policía Estatal Investigadora,
PEI) in each of the country's 31 states and the Federal District maintain
preventive and judicial police, and serve as the primary criminal
investigative agency in a state. State police in border
states have specialized groups that work with the FBI on kidnapping and
other sensitive investigations. State police are under the direction of the
state's governor. Each state contains numerous municipalities, many of which
maintain a municipal police force.
- Municipal Police (Policía Municipal) mainly
patrol and conduct crime prevention. They are the primary responders when
summoned through 911, to include traditional police calls like traffic
violations and incidents in residential communities.
- Transit Police (Policía de Tránsito)
are responsible for overseeing and enforcing traffic safety compliance on
roads and highways. Response to even minor car accidents can take a long
The emergency line
in Mexico is 911. Excellent
health facilities are available in major cities. Ambulance services are widely
available, but training and availability of emergency responders may be below
There are public and private
medical systems in Mexico. Most visitors and relatively wealthy Mexicans
choose to use private health care services. All major cities have private
hospitals and private ambulance services, most of which offer
adequate care in an emergency or if immediate travel to the U.S. is not
possible. Mexican citizens receive free emergency and non-emergency medical
care through the public system. In rural areas, public health facilities are
often the only option, and the level of care can be substantially lower than
that in major cities. The health care system does not operate in
a manner comparable to U.S. health care standards. Travelers should
look to establish a medical response plan. Find contact information for
available medical services and available air ambulance services on the
U.S. Embassy website.
In major cities, ambulance
response time is typically 10-15 minutes, depending on the
location. Injured or seriously ill travelers may prefer to take a taxi to
a health provider. Foreigners residing or working in Mexico on a permanent
basis should consider coverage with a private ambulance company for
Most private hospitals and
emergency services require payment or adequate guarantee of payment
before providing services. Very few hospitals in Mexico accept
U.S. medical insurance. Instead, travelers will need to pay the hospital
and then seek reimbursement from their insurance provider. Hospitals have
refused to discharge patients until receiving payment. The U.S.
Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health
insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s
webpage on insurance overseas.
U.S. citizens have lodged
numerous complaints against some private hospitals in resort areas to
include exorbitant prices and inflexible collection measures. Obtain
complete information on billing, pricing, and proposed medical procedures
before agreeing to any medical care in these locations. Be aware that some
resorts have exclusive agreements with medical providers and ambulance
services, which may limit your choices in seeking emergency medical attention.
Some hospitals in tourist centers use sliding scales, deciding on rates for
services based on negotiation and on the patient’s perceived ability to pay. In
some instances, providers have been known to determine the limits of a
patient’s credit card or insurance, quickly reach that amount in services
rendered, and subsequently discharge the patient or transfer them to a public
Exercise caution when purchasing
medication overseas. Pharmaceuticals, both over the counter and requiring prescription
in the U.S., are often readily available for purchase with little controls.
Counterfeit medication is common in certain parts of Mexico and may prove
ineffective, mislabeled, or dangerous. Purchase medication in
consultation with a medical professional and from reputable establishments. For
a list of controlled substances in Mexico, visit the COFEPRIS website
and the Mexican Drug Schedule. U.S.
citizens should carry a copy of their prescription or doctor’s letter, but it
is still possible that they may be subject to arrest for arriving in Mexico
with substances on these lists. Note that a medicine considered over the
counter in the U.S. may be illegal in Mexico. For example,
pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in Sudafed, is a controlled substance in
Mexico. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with
The CDC offers additional
information on vaccines and health guidance for Mexico.
In many areas in Mexico, tap
water is not potable. Bottled water and beverages are safe, although many
restaurants and hotels serve tap water unless patrons specifically
request bottled water. Ice for drinks might use tap water. Take
precautions when drinking water or eating fresh fruits,
vegetables, and salads. Review OSAC’s report, I’m Drinking What in
Air pollution is a significant
problem in several major cities in Mexico. Consider the impact seasonal smog
and heavy particulate pollution may have on your health. Many cities in
Mexico, such as Mexico City, are at high altitude, which can lead to altitude
illness. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling in High Altitude.
Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.
The following diseases are
prevalent: Hepatitis; Typhoid Fever; Travelers’ Diarrhea; Dengue; Chikungunya;
Zika; Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever; Parasitic Infections; and Chronic
Respiratory Disease. The CDC offers information on vaccines and
country-specific health guidance for Mexico.
The Mérida consular
district hosts the OSAC Yucatán Peninsula Country
Council that meets in Cancún on an ad-hoc basis during the year. Interested
private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Latin
America team with any questions or to join.
General Contact Information
No. 338-K x 29 y 31, Col. Alcala Martin Mérida, Yucatán,
Dialing from the U.S.: 1-844-528-6611
Dialing from within Mexico: (01) 999-316-7168
Consular Agencies in Cancún and
Playa del Carmen offer limited services for U.S. citizens.
Blvd. Kukulkan Km
13, Torre La Europea, Despacho 301 ZH, Cancún, QR, 77500
Agency Playa del Carmen
Progreso, Local 33 Carretera Federal Puerto Juarez-Chetumal, Mz.
293 Lt. 1, Playa del Carmen, QR
A Consular Agent also
operates in Cozumel, but does not have a physical office. Contact
numbers are the same as above.
Other U.S. Diplomatic Posts In Mexico
Mexico City, Consulate
Ciudad Juarez, Consulate
Nuevo Laredo, Consulate
Before you travel, consider the