US increases travel warning to 14 Mexican states

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — The U.S. State Department is recommending that Americans avoid travel to all or parts of 14 of 31 Mexican states in the widest travel advisory issued since Mexico stepped up its drug war in 2006.

The department advises against any nonessential travel in all of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Tamaulipas, which border the U.S, and in the central state of Durango, as well as sections of 10 other states.

It advises caution for traveling in three other border states and many areas of central and western Mexico where drug cartels have been warring.

The advisory issued Wednesday says U.S. citizens have been victims of drug violence, including killings, kidnappings and carjackings.

The previous warning in April 2011 recommended avoiding travel in all of just two states, Tamaulipas and Michoacan, and parts of eight others.

It is the first time the State Department listed advisories for each of Mexico's 31 states, including the federal district of Mexico City, where there is no warning. There were also no warnings for the states that are home to Cancun and Cabo San Lucas, two popular tourist destinations for Americans.

The advisory seems to take pains not to make even violence-plagued tourist destinations off limits.

It recommends against nonessential travel in the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa, home to Mexico's most powerful cartel of the same name, and one of Mexico's most violent states. But the state warning excludes the tourist destination of Mazatlan. It advises visitors there to exercise caution at night and in the morning, even though the statement also says "incidents of violence are occurring more frequently in tourist areas" in Mazatlan.

Some large cruise lines have stopped their ports of call in Mazatlan.

While the advisory warns against travel in most parts of southern Guerrero state, it doesn't include the resort city of Acapulco, even though Acapulco has seen a significant spike in violence from warring cartels.

"In Acapulco, defer nonessential travel to areas further than two blocks inland of the Costera Miguel Aleman Boulevard, which parallels the popular beach areas," the statement says.

There have been several incidents of violence on the costera, the main tourist road, in the last year.

Many Mexican elected officials decried the warning for its potential impact on tourism and the economy.

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa said Mexico does everything it can to ensure the safety of any person in the country, and said the number of visitors to Mexico is steadily increasing.

(This version CORRECTS number of states with warnings in 2011 to 10 instead of 9.)

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