Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Consulate Matamoros does not assume
responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or
firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular
individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED
MATAMOROS AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT
LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Mexico-specific webpage for
proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Matamoros is located along the U.S.-Mexico
border, sharing multiple international bridges with Brownsville, Texas, and is
situated 50 miles from the Reynosa-McAllen border area. There are frequent
gunfights in Matamoros and other parts of the Consular District (Altamira,
Mante, Ciudad Victoria, San Fernando, Valle Hermoso, Rio Bravo, Reynosa, Miguel
Alemán). The random nature of violence, combined with one of the highest
kidnapping rates Mexico, exposes everyone to a high risk of being subject to
There are no safe areas in Matamoros due to
gunfights, grenade attacks, and kidnappings, all of which can take place
anytime, anywhere. Crime and violence related to the activities of
Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) are continuing concerns that
directly affect the safety and security of U.S. government personnel. U.S.
citizens entering or living in the Consular District remain under constant
threat of abduction, robbery, or violent crime. The primary security threat
stems from the TCOs and the ongoing turf war between rival factions of the Gulf
Cartel and Los Zetas. In 2016, firefights have taken place throughout the
state, particularly in Cuidad Victoria. These gun battles have occurred in
broad daylight, on public streets, and at other public venues. The situation in
northeast Mexico remains volatile; the location and timing of future armed
engagements cannot be predicted.
Drug-related violence remained high in 2016 in
the Matamoros-Rio Bravo-Reynosa region. RSO statistics indicate an increase in
the number of local nationals killed as a result of drug-related violence. The
true number of drug-related deaths, however, is difficult to obtain due to
underreporting. Gun battles may occur at any time, as rival TCO gunmen engage
in hit-and-run attacks and as military and federal police encounter TCO gunmen
while on patrol. Matamoros has been the scene of many violent, uncontrolled
incidents during which innocent bystanders have been injured or killed. The
government has increased the number of troops and federal police in this region
in an effort to quell the violence. However, this support changes due to the
security environment elsewhere in the country.
Visitors traveling to the border areas have
been victims of armed robberies, sexual assaults, auto thefts, murder, and
kidnappings. Street crime and theft in urban areas are also common. All types
of crime statistics are unreliable, due to both the lack of a functional
governmental tracking mechanism and underreporting by the general public.
Additionally, separating victims from perpetrators is often problematic.
While U.S. citizens may not be specifically
targeted, they have been victims. Much of the crime is indiscriminate, with
criminals generally selecting victims based on the appearance of vulnerability,
prosperity, or inattentiveness. While U.S. citizens not involved in criminal
activities may not be specifically targeted, innocent bystanders are at risk
from the increased violence on the streets of border cities and nearby towns.
Violent crime (kidnappings, extortions,
homicides, sexual assaults, robberies, residential break-ins) and non-violent
crimes (financial scams, vehicle thefts, petty drug crimes) continue to be
serious concerns for those living or transiting Tamaulipas.
Travelers should stick to well-known,
well-populated routes and should avoid traveling at night. Be alert to your
surroundings, even when in areas generally considered safe. Be aware of popular
scams and robbery tactics used to distract your attention.
Theft of the vehicle car sound systems is a
common crime. The installation of a car alarm is strongly recommended, as
precaution to deter vehicle thefts and thefts of interior contents. Keep your
vehicle interior free of anything that would entice a thief to break into the
car. Avoid leaving your vehicle on the street. Park inside a residential
compound, in a parking lot with an attendant, or at least within view of the
location you are visiting. When parking at a shopping facility, be sure to park
as close as possible to the store entrance but away from dumpsters, bushes, or
U.S. citizens should be cautious when using
ATMs in Mexico. Cloning or counterfeiting debit/credit cards occurs routinely.
Travelers are encouraged to plan their cash needs in advance, using only
reputable ATMs in secure areas. Card “skimming” and double-charging are common
types of electronic fraud. Use credit cards only when you are able to maintain
physical control of the card; never let it be taken away by an employee. Travelers
are advised to check their account activity online at least weekly to detect
fraudulent charges early. It is recommended that visitors on day trips use ATMs
or exchange currency in the U.S. prior to crossing into Mexico.
Other Areas of Concern
The Department of State Travel Warning for
specifically urges U.S. citizens to defer unnecessary travel to the entire
state of Tamaulipas. If travel cannot be deferred, travelers should exercise
extreme caution. Visitors are urged to remain alert and exercise extreme
caution during their stay. Travelers should carry a working cell phone and
should know where to go in case of an emergency.
Travel between Matamoros and cities along the
border is conducted through the U.S., re-entering Mexico at the nearest port of
entry. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling overland into
the interior of Mexico from the Texas border, except those instances that have
been deemed mission-critical. U.S. citizens are urged to be especially aware of
safety and security concerns when visiting the border region. All adult
entertainment clubs and casinos in the Consular District are off limits to U.S.
Travelers should defer unnecessary travel on highways
between Matamoros and Reynosa, Reynosa and Monterrey, and from Ciudad Victoria
to the Texas border. Criminals have followed and harassed U.S. citizens
traveling in these areas.
Official Americans living in Matamoros are
under strict travel restrictions and a curfew from 2400-0600. These
restrictions severely limit personal and work capabilities in a region plagued
by endemic crime and violence levels similar to those experienced in conflict
zones. Even with these restrictions, shootouts between TCOs and government
security forces occur in areas where U.S. government employees are allowed to
travel in Matamoros.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Road safety is an area of particular concern,
and roads and road conditions are below U.S. standards in general. The highways
are generally well-maintained, but their isolation leaves travelers vulnerable
to crime. All highway travelers should avoid travel at night, especially along
highways connecting major cities. Use toll roads when possible, plan routes
ahead of time, and notify family/friends of your itinerary. Travelers are
advised to keep a cell phone on their person and to know how to reach friends
and family in an emergency. Travelers should ensure they use road-worthy
vehicles and maintain a full size spare tire in case of a flat.
Travelers on the highways between Tamaulipas
and the U.S. have frequently been targeted for kidnapping and robbery.
Travelers have also been caught in TCO roadblocks, and incidents of gunfire
between criminals and Mexican law enforcement are normal. Several commercial
companies have also reported being harassed or encountering checkpoints along
rural highways along the border. There have been numerous carjackings and
kidnappings along these major highways.
The Consulate advises U.S. citizens to give
security convoys a wide berth, as the TCOs have been known to engage them
without regard to civilian casualties. Travelers are advised to remain cautious
and to identify potential “safe havens” if violence breaks out in their area.
Maintaining communication with travelers to this area is critical in case of an
Continued concerns regarding road safety along
the border have prompted the U.S. Embassy/Consulates to impose certain
restrictions on U.S. government employees transiting the area. Since July 2010,
Embassy/Consulate employees and their families have not been permitted to
travel by vehicle to/from any Embassy/Consulate in Mexico.
Public Transportation Conditions
U.S. government personnel are prohibited from
utilizing all forms of public transportation in the Matamoros Consular
Airports in Matamoros, Reynosa, and Cuidad
Victoria operate domestic flights through Mexico City. Airports in Brownsville
and McCallen operate U.S. carrier’s through Dallas and Houston. Be prepared for
U.S.-styled security screening and unpredictable wait times.
Special precautions should be taken during
hurricane season for any maritime activity.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED
MATAMOROS AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING
OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism
There are no significant regional terrorism
threats. However, the presence of the TCOs and the movement of large sums of money
through the area have had a decaying influence on civil institutions, and
corruption of police and rule of law officials remains the most serious
concern. There is no evidence of transnational terrorists residing or
transiting the region. However, the nature of the border and the ready access
to both human smugglers and counterfeit documents continue to make this area a
potential transit point for international terrorists.
Anti-American sentiment is seldom expressed
toward U.S. citizens or interests (official or non-official) in Matamoros. Many
Mexican citizens living in Tamaulipas have visas for entry into the U.S. and
frequently travel to the U.S. for both business and pleasure.
Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED
MATAMOROS AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR
AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
American interests in the Consular District are
generally not targets of political violence. Corruption stemming from
narco-trafficking remains and has affected service levels delivered by some
state and local governments. Political violence against local Mexican
politicians is common in the Consular District. Mexican politicians are
frequently coerced into cooperating with TCOs, possibly affecting U.S.
interests in the region.
Some small, peaceful demonstrations took place
in/around Matamoros in 2016, including areas near the ports of entry (Veterans
Bridge, Gateway Bridge) and the main plaza (Plaza Principal). Any protest may
Non-sectarian, agrarian interests have disputes
and legal cases involving land, water, and other issues, but few have sparked
violent episodes or the formation of groups responding with violence.
Matamoros is located approximately 30 miles
from the Gulf Coast. Hurricanes are common during June-November. Heavy rains
can lead to localized flooding. Heavy rains also frequently lead to widespread
power outages, but these are normally remedied within hours. Officials
sometimes remove manhole covers to speed the evacuation of standing water.
These areas are often not adequately marked and can lead to road hazards. Travelers
moving during these storms are advised to watch for poles with plastic garbage
bags tied to them, as these are often the only warnings to motorists of a missing
Utility service (electric, water) can be
unreliable in areas of Tamaulipas.
TCOs maintain a system of lookouts (halcones). Visitors can expect to be
watched or even challenged about their business in the Consular District. Be
unpredictable in your movements; vary your routes and departure/arrival times.
Be alert to possible surveillance. Note any individual who appears out of place
along your routes. Avoid sitting outside at restaurants. Instead, try to find a
seat in an area not clearly visible from the street.
If hiring domestic help, ensure that they are
trained not to volunteer information to strangers or to allow access of workers
without prior authorization. A vetting process should include background info
and public documents (ID, license, etc.).
Mexico is well-known for its illegal drug trade
and the violence/corruption fostered by the industry. Mexico is the primary
route for illegal drugs into the U.S. Matamoros, and the surrounding areas,
have been the scene of many violent, uncontrolled incidents in which innocent
bystanders have been injured/killed. Security forces and police have not been
effective in eliminating the threat in the cities along the U.S.-Mexican
Gun battles may occur at any time, as rival TCO
gunmen engage in hit-and-run attacks, and as military and federal police
encounter TCO gunmen while on patrol. In an effort to prevent the military from
responding to criminal activity, TCOs have set up roadblocks or
“narco-blockades” in various parts of Matamoros, Reynosa, and Cuidad Victoria.
At these blockades, armed gunmen have carjacked unsuspecting drivers (usually
buses and commercial trucks) and used their vehicles to block-off roads or have
spiked the road with tire-puncturing projectiles. Since the escalation in TCO
violence began, the government has significantly increased the number of troops
and federal police in this region in an effort to quell the violence. These
numbers constantly change due to the security environment elsewhere in Mexico.
Military and federal police frequently conduct patrols throughout the city.
Express kidnappings are a common form of
abduction and are based on the withdrawal limit placed on ATM cards
industry-wide. The victim is generally held for 24-48 hours and is forced to
withdraw funds from a series of ATMs. Official Americans have not been
victimized by this type of crime recently, but some Mexican employees of the
Consulate either have been victimized themselves or know a victim.
Although no reliable statistics exist,
individuals associated with the maquiladora (factory) industry in Matamoros and
Reynosa continue to experience both express kidnappings and kidnappings for
ransom at an alarming rate.
The term "express kidnapping" is also
applied to the kidnapping of random victims held for brief periods, where small
ransoms are demanded. A typical express kidnapping may last for several hours
and is settled for the equivalent of a few thousand dollars.
Additionally, telephonic or “virtual”
kidnapping is an increasing threat. Calls follow a similar methodology: the
call includes a crying/pleading voice immediately after the call is answered
but before the "kidnapper" gets on the phone. In this manner,
criminals hope to confuse the victim and coerce him/her into giving away
important information. For example, if the crying voice sounds like a child,
and the victim calls out that child's name, the caller then knows the name of a
potential kidnap victim and will use this to his benefit. Criminals will try to
use fear, tact, and timing against victims. Calls are planned for timeframes
when it is otherwise difficult to contact the purported kidnap victim (when a child
is en route to/from school). All calls demand money for the release of the
loved one and stipulate no police involvement. Callers often give statements to
suggest surveillance. While vague, these statements imply the caller has been
watching a family. The caller uses fear to inforce the threat of kidnapping.
Know the details of your family's travel and location and how to reach them.
Government statistics for 2016 for kidnappings show
Tamaulipas ranked first among states in Mexico for disappearances. Amnesty
International reports that over 6,000 people have been reported missing since
2010 in Tamaulipas, and many of them are victims of kidnappings or
narco-related violence. These figures lead every state in Mexico. In the rare
event that a victim is released after being kidnapped, s/he has reported to the
Consulate being beaten, tortured, and threatened while held.
The local, state, and federal governments are
organized similar to their U.S. counterparts, but law enforcement capabilities vary
greatly. Police corruption and police involvement in criminal activity is
common. Consequently, citizens are often indifferent to police authority,
adding to the sense of lawlessness. The general perception is that the majority
of victims do not report crimes due to fear of reprisals by 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. Generally,
police receive low wages, are vulnerable to corruption, and receive less
training than their U.S. counterparts. Police enjoy little respect from the
general population. Reporting crime can be a bureaucratic, time-consuming
process, and is widely perceived to have limited effectiveness, except for the
most serious of crimes or where a police report is required for insurance
purposes. Should a police report be required for an insurance claim, a nominal
fee will be charged.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or
U.S. citizens are advised to cooperate with the
police if stopped or questioned. Travelers should not be expected to pay an
officer directly for any traffic violations but should be prepared to report to
the nearest Mexican Traffic Police office to pay a fine.
U.S. citizens who are detained or harassed by
government forces may seek assistance at the Consulate. A duty officer is
available 24-hours per day. It is particularly important to identify which
agency was involved. A description of the vehicles and uniforms is helpful.
Being able to accurately describe what occurred, the time, date, location, and
which agency was involved will greatly enhance the Consulate’s ability to reach
a satisfactory result from the complaint.
Crime Victim Assistance
If involved in a traffic accident or victimized
by crime, one may be required to accompany the investigating officer to the
local police station to file a complaint or respond to questions.
The police emergency telephone number is 911
throughout Mexico, though response time varies.
The municipal police force in Matamoros was
disbanded due to deep-rooted corruption, lack of professionalism, and capacity.
state police force (Fuerza Tamaulipas) began deploying to Matamoros in late
2014 but has faced serious recruitment and retention deficits. The force is estimated
at one-third the size needed to police the state.
The Mexican Army (SEDENA) and the Mexican
Marines (SEMAR) are used to combat organized crime across Mexico. The military
operates checkpoints at the ports of entry and patrols throughout the city
providing basic security functions.
The health system is not directly comparable to
U.S. health care standards.
Travelers can contact private ambulance
services who charge a fee. Life Ambulance Service: 011-52-868-812-3049.
Contact Information for Available Medical
Sexta y Avenida Longoria #9
Primera y Gonzalez y Morelos 1105
Telephone - 813-4303/813-4653/813-4191
The Red Cross (Cruz Roja) can be reached at
Available Air Ambulance Services
Air ambulance services include: AEA
International, (800) 752-4195.
Health insurance is an important consideration.
Travelers should ensure that they have adequate health coverage while in
Country-specific Vaccination and Health
Food and potable water standards are different
than those of the U.S. One should take precautions with regard to drinking
water, eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and salads.
The CDC offers additional information on
vaccines and health guidance for Mexico.
Country Council Information
There is currently no active Country Council in
Matamoros. Please contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team if you are
interested in private-sector engagement in Matamoros or have questions about
OSAC’s Country Council programs.
Consulate General Matamoros Location and Contact Information:
Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
Consulate Contact Numbers
area code: 868
RSO Duty Officer at U.S Embassy available
through Switchboard Operator:
In Mexico- (01-55) 5080-2000 or International-
Regional Security Office
Hours: 0800-1700 M-F
Embassy Mexico City: http://mexico.usembassy.gov/
Consulate Ciudad Juárez: http://ciudadjuarez.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Guadalajara: http://guadalajara.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Hermosillo: http://hermosillo.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Mérida: http://merida.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Monterrey: http://monterrey.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Nogales: http://nogales.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Nuevo Laredo: http://nuevolaredo.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Puerto Vallarta: http://guadalajara.usconsulate.gov/puerto_vallarta.html
Consulate Tijuana: http://tijuana.usconsulate.gov/
U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to
register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the Department of
State's Smart Traveler
Enrollment Program (STEP). Registration will make your presence and whereabouts
known. While Consular Officers will do their utmost to assist Americans in a
crisis, travelers should always be aware that local authorities bear primary
responsibility for the welfare of people living or traveling in their
Mexico Country Information