This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional
Security Office at the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey. OSAC encourages travelers
to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of
security conditions in the Mexican States of Durango, Nuevo León, San Luis
Potosí, and Zacatecas, as well as southern Coahuila. 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. Reconsider travel (Level 3) to the entire Monterrey
Consular District due to crime. Do not travel to the state of Tamaulipas due to
crime and kidnapping. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory
Overall Crime and
2019 was the most violent year on record in Mexico with 35,558
reported homicides. Murder increased 2.7% nationwide since 2018, now the
second-most violent year on record.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Monterrey as being a HIGH-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official
U.S. government interests. Violent crime (e.g. homicide, kidnapping, sexual
assault, armed robbery) and non-violent crimes (e.g. financial scams,
extortion, vehicle theft, burglary, petty drug crime) continue to be a serious
concern for those living or working in the district. Organized criminal
elements contribute to the high level of crime in the region. While many of
those killed in organized crime-related violence were similarly involved in criminal
activity, innocent bystanders have also been harmed. U.S. citizens have fallen
victim to criminal activity including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, highway
robbery, and have been caught in gun battles. There is no evidence that
criminal elements specifically target U.S. citizens or other foreign visitors
without some connection to drug trafficking. However, anyone who projects the
perception of wealth and is unfamiliar with the area can easily become a target
of opportunity. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should
suffers from gross underreporting of crime. By most accounts, over 90% of all
crimes go unreported. Nevertheless, the overall number of reported homicides
increased in Monterrey’s consular district in 2019. The 2019 homicide figures
include 2,618 total murders as follows:
- Coahuila: 314 cases (20.86%
- Durango: 181 cases (3.54%
- Nuevo León: 956 cases (14.36%
- San Luis Potosí: 522 cases (6.68%
645 cases (9.40% decrease)
Residential burglary in Monterrey, including more affluent
neighborhoods, occurs often and is most common during the day and on weekends
or holidays when houses are vacant. Thieves often gain entry through unsecured
entryways, by tricking domestic employees, or by using force to access homes
that appear vacant. One common tactic criminals use is to trick homeowners and
domestic workers by pretending to work for utility companies that need to
conduct an inspection. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and
Outs and Considerations for
theft, carjacking, armed robbery, and theft of parts from parked vehicles all
remain common in Monterrey and throughout the consular district. Armed gangs of
thieves targeted parking lots throughout the last year in the San Pedro Garza
Garcia municipality, robbing victims of expensive watches (usually Rolex) on
more than a dozen occasions. Reported car thefts in 2019:
- Coahuila: 728 cases
- Durango: 958 cases
- Nuevo León: 1460 cases
- San Luis Potosí: 4084 cases
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.
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,
attacked 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. 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.
threat of violence related to Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs)
remains the leading security concern in Monterrey’s consular district. The
presence of TCOs has had a major impact on the security environment.
Beheadings, torture, and other gruesome displays of violence occurred in the
consular district in 2019. While most of the violence has occurred among
warring cartels, innocent people have been caught in the crossfire or
accidentally targeted. Police continue to confront the cartels and their associates,
and these confrontations can result in shootouts on public roads. Following the
confrontations, police frequently discover weapons to include assault rifles
and, in some cases, explosives. As cartel senior leadership either dies or goes
to prison, junior cartel members experiment with express kidnappings,
extortion, and home robberies as methods to acquire money.
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. 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, and travelers should
always request the establishment bring a portable credit card terminal to them
to charge their credit card in their physical presence. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.
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 or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road Conditions
violence associated with TCOs and smaller groups of organized crime increase
the dangers of travel via Mexico’s highways within the Monterrey Consular District
and beyond. The highways from Monterrey to Reynosa and Monterrey to Ciudad
Miguel Alemán continue to experience higher levels of criminal activity and
violence. The U.S. Government restricts both routes for its personnel. However,
the highway between Monterrey and Laredo is currently open for personnel during
daylight hours. Pay close attention to local news, social media reports, and
travel advisories to reduce chance encounters with DTOs.
sits astride one of the busiest transportation corridors in Mexico. Many of the
highways are crowded with trucks laden with cargo.
areas in the district have limited or no mobile phone service, so use satellite
phones if possible. For example, cell service will not work during most of the
route between Monterrey and Zacatecas.
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.
steering mistakes that can normally be corrected on a road with wide and level
shoulders often cannot be easily corrected, 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 which can damage your
car or cause drivers to swerve or brake unexpectedly.
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 from any phone in Mexico.
variety of road conditions exist 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.
(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.
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.
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
on roads and highways may encounter government checkpoints, which often include
a military staff. The government has deployed federal police 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 aggressive.
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.
driving their own vehicle into Mexico beyond the immediate border area
(approximately 12 miles into the country) must apply for a temporary vehicle
import permit. The permit requires the presentation of a valid passport and a
monetary deposit that you will retrieve upon leaving Mexico before the
expiration of the permit. Failing to apply for a temporary vehicle import
permit may lead to impoundment and a fine equal to the value of the vehicle.
crossing into Mexico must have a valid license plate and registration sticker.
Mexican authorities will often refuse to admit vehicles with temporary or paper
license plates. Authorities may confiscate vehicles with expired registration
or unauthorized plates and charge the operator with a fine equal to the value
of the vehicle.
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.
inside a residential 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.
Public Transportation Conditions
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. Twenty-four hour radio taxi service is available at
5516-6020 and 3626-9800 to 30. Sitio
taxis in Mexico City most often have meters and government registrations. In
addition, the Embassy recommends that government employees use ride-sharing
apps that allow consumers to verify the driver and vehicle number.
by intercity bus only during daylight hours, and only by first-class conveyance
whenever possible. Although there have been several reports of bus hijackings
and robberies on toll roads, buses on toll roads have experienced a lower rate
of incidents than second- and third-class buses that travel on less secure, libre highways. Do not lose sight of
bags, suitcases, and personal belongings. It is common for thieves to wait at
roadside gas and bus stations to steal luggage.
Consulate advises that its employees fly, rather than drive, between many
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.
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 operations.
prepared for U.S.-styled security screening and unpredictable wait times and
travel delays from all airports in the region.
U.S. Department of State has assessed all posts in Mexico as being a LOW-threat locations for terrorism
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
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
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
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Political violence against Mexican
politicians is common and stems from widespread corruption.
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed all posts in Mexico as being HIGH-threat
locations for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S.
government interests. Although large-scale public
demonstrations or strikes are uncommon in Monterrey, nationally organized
protests can occur. Most protests deal with local issues and do not pose a
threat to U.S. citizens. Small, peaceful demonstrations occur periodically at
various government buildings, including the Nuevo León Palacio del Gobierno
(Government Palace) and Fiscalía General de Justicia de Nuevo León (Nuevo León
Attorney General’s office). These protests typically form along the city’s main
arteries and may cause traffic jams.
in Mexico may block traffic on roads, including major thoroughfares, or take
control of toll booths on highways. Those who encounter protesters demanding
unofficial tolls are generally allowed 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.
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 pleasure.
is prone to serious flash floods during the hurricane season. It is common during
periods of heavy rains for streets to flood and for parts of the city to be
completely unreachable. Avoid driving or walking in flooded areas. Flood waters
hide dangerous roadway conditions, which disable vehicles and injure
pedestrians. Deadly floodwaters sweep pedestrians and vehicles away every year.
accidents are a concern in highly industrialized areas of the city and along
rail lines. The State of Nuevo León has a highly trained team (Protección
Civil) that, in conjunction with municipal partners, can handle most
industrial accidents, including HAZMAT spills.
Economic Concerns/Intellectual Property Theft
have infiltrated many levels of society in Monterrey and throughout the
district. Conducting periodic personnel background checks on employees is a
very good practice. However, given the size and population of Monterrey and the
state of Nuevo León, it would be difficult to hire a sizeable workforce
completely insulated from TCOs. Best practice calls for the use of periodic
employee interviews and initial/periodic background checks.
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 engagement.
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.
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.
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.
Personal Identity Concerns
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.
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
City and the states of Chihuahua, Jalisco, Puebla, and Yucatan have
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
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+
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
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
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 it.
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.
for ransom is an established criminal activity throughout Mexico. In the past
few years, cartel-related kidnappings have occurred in Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo
León, San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas. Victims of these kidnappings largely
include individuals involved in the drug trade—without regard to U.S. or
Mexican citizenship. But not all kidnappings have a nexus to the drug trade.
For example, multiple dual-citizen Mexican-Americans living within the consular
district in 2019 were targets for kidnapping because criminals perceived them to
have money. However, no single-citizenship U.S. national was a known target for
kidnapping for ransom in the district in 2019. The highest number of
kidnappings per capita in the district occurred in Zacatecas, especially in and
around the municipality of Fresnillo. Overall, the number of reported
kidnappings in Monterrey’s consular district remained the same in 2019 as in
2018. Mexico’s FGR and SESNSP compiled and published the following statistics
for 2019, totaling 108 reported kidnappings:
- Coahuila: 10 kidnappings
- Durango: 1 kidnapping
- Nuevo León: 26 kidnappings
- San Luis Potosí: 24 kidnappings
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. Affluent residents in Mexico City often have bodyguards and armored
vehicles for their families.
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.
consular district has experienced cases of traditional, express, and virtual
number of reported express kidnappings is low. 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
in Mexico City 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.
appears to be an uptick in virtual kidnapping. 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.
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
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
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 authorization.
OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
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
and import restrictions for information on what you
cannot take into or out of other countries.
Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Justice (Consejo Ciudadano de Seguridad Publica y Procuracion de Justicia)
takes complaints from those in Mexico City afraid to go to the police. Call
The emergency line in Mexico is 911. Generally,
Mexican police must concentrate their limited resources on urban 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. In major metropolitan areas, foreigners can
expect support from police. Mexican security and police forces generally have been
ineffective in maintaining security in border areas and other parts of Mexico. Consequently,
citizens are often indifferent to police authority.
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. Overall confidence in police
remains low in much of the consular district. However, Nuevo León’s Fuerza
Civil has improved security and raised public confidence in the police.
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.
organization 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.
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 Mexico’s northern border
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.
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.
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.
Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit (Secretaría
de Hacienda y Crédito Público) deploys customs officers (Aduana) to
borders and international airports to interdict contraband.
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.
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.
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.
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 long periods of time.
The emergency line in Mexico is 911. Monterrey has modern medical
facilities and well-trained medical professionals. Facilities outside of the
metropolitan area are limited. Ambulance services are widely available, but
training and availability of emergency responders may be below U.S. standards.
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 faster service.
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 hospital.
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 Medication.
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 My Water?
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
Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Health 101: How to Prepare for
Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.
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.
OSAC Country Council
The Country Council in Monterrey is active.
Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Latin America team with any questions or to join.
U.S. Embassy Contact
Prolongación Ave. Alfonso Reyes
No. 150, Col. Valle Poniente, Santa Catarina, Nuevo León, Mexico 66196
Business hours: 0800-1700
American Citizen Services:
+52-81-4160-5512 or U.S. toll free at +1-844-528-6611
Other U.S. Diplomatic Posts In Mexico
Embassy México City,
Ciudad Juárez, Consulate Guadalajara, Consulate
Nuevo Laredo, Consulate Tijuana
you travel, consider the following resources: