Many students began planning their spring break vacation months ago, but a recent outbreak of crime and violence in Mexico could keep some students from going south of the border.’
The U.S. Department of State issued a travel alert Feb. 20 for U.S. citizens traveling and living in Mexico. According to the alert, violence in the country has recently increased in areas of prostitution and drug-dealing, and travelers should be aware of potential dangers. Most of the violence is near the U.S. border, but citizens traveling abroad should take precautions in unfamiliar areas at all times, the alert states.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced an additional alert to discourage college students from traveling to parts of northern Mexico during spring break. According to the report, people traveling should avoid areas such as Tijuana and Rosarito Beach, two popular spring break destinations.
Paul Gonzales, a 60-year-old U.S. citizen who lives in Matamoras, Mexico, said he would advise students not to travel to Mexico during these turbulent times.
‘Without question, do not come,’ Gonzales said.
He said if students ignore the warnings to be conscious and to beware of the police in Mexico.
‘Cops are crooked,’ Gonzales said.
He said he was pulled over five times and four of those were ‘fake’ attempts to get money, and he had to pay a bribe.
‘What keeps the government from winning the drug war is the police,’ Gonzales said.
David Coracy, president of B and A Travel Service in Carbondale, said even with the warnings people are still plan trips to Mexico for spring break. Coracy said he has cautioned people traveling to Mexico City and other cities on the border, but tourist and resort locations are still considered safe.
‘As of right now, we are not uncomfortable sending people,’ Coracy said.
He said people are continuing to travel to places such as Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Cozumel and Los Cabos, but people could get into bad situations if they stray into unsafe areas. He said people who plan trips to Mexico should make sure they stay within well-developed areas of tourism to ensure a safe trip.
Peter Gitau, dean of students, said the university could not forbid students from going to Mexico for spring break, but would encourage them to be extra cautious. People should avoid areas that have been affected by the drug violence, Gitau said.
‘The warning should be taken seriously,’ Gitau said.
He said students should be responsible if they choose to travel to Mexico and register with the U.S. Embassy there. If travelers register and share a copy of their vacation itineraries, the embassy can help if something were to happen, he said.’ ‘
Brandon Wynn, a senior from Oak Park studying aviation, said he thought Cancun would be safe for spring break travelers.
He said people should stay in the limits of the city and stay smart. Places such as Tijuana and Mexico City could be dangerous, Wynn said, but tourist cities would be fine.
Gonzales also said people traveling to Mexico for mission work was a safer environment.
‘Coming on the mission field is a whole different picture,’ Gonzales said.
He said people who are coming to party for a typical spring break trip should be extremely cautious, but he works with missionaries in Matamoras and said this area is safe for work.
Chastity Spencer, sophomore from Chicago studying radio-television, said she doesn’t think students should travel to Mexico for spring break.
‘There are plenty of other places to go to have fun,’ Spencer said.’
She said students could go to Florida or somewhere else for spring break but to avoid Mexico for a while. She said if students travel there despite the warnings to be smart and stay with a group.