US issues highest ‘Do Not Travel’ warning for 5 Mexican states

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After his extradition to the US from Mexico, drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera pleaded not guilty to a 17-count indictment.

The U.S. State Department is warning Americans against traveling to five Mexican states marred by "violent crime," putting the regions at the same level as the war-stricken areas of Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.

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The “do not travel” level 4 warning applies to the Mexican states of Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacán, Guerrero and Tamaulipas.

"Violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread," the advisory reads.

Sinaloa, where infamous cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was arrested and extradited in 2016, remains a state of heightened organized crime.

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In 2014, 43 students were abducted and murdered in the lawless state of Guerrero, according to Time.com. Last week, 11 people were left dead following a police shootout. "Armed groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and may use violence towards travelers," according to the department warning.

Colima, a tiny coastal region of Mexico, is known as the country's murder capital. According to the Guardian, last year was Mexico's deadliest year in history with a total of 23,101 murder investigations opened in the first 11 months of 2017.

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The country as a whole was issued a level 2 warning, and travelers are encouraged to “exercise increased caution.”

According to the Mexican tourism board, American travel advisories are especially sensitive for Mexico, which attracted more than 35 million foreign visitors in 2016, the Guardian reported.

Read the full advisory at travel.state.gov.

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