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Full Version: State Dept: Tamaulipas murder rate up 90%
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McALLEN — Murders in Tamaulipas jumped more than 90 percent and kidnapping reports more than doubled last year to the highest in all of Mexico, a new travel warning issued Friday by the U.S. State Department says.

The data on kidnappings and murders in the Mexican state that borders South Texas sheds light on a state where such information is typically difficult to obtain from local officials.

The State Department maintained its stance that U.S. citizens should defer all non-essential travel to Tamaulipas because carjackings, armed robberies, gun battles and grenade attacks continue to occur often in the region, including in Matamoros and Reynosa.

“These crimes (happen) in all parts of the city at all times of the day,” the bulletin reads.

Still, the number of U.S. citizens slain in Mexico dropped 37 percent last year — to 71 reported murders. Most killed in narco-violence are members of drug cartels, but “innocent persons have also been killed,” the warning says.

State Department employees in Tamaulipas continue to have a midnight to 6 a.m. curfew — as has been the case for more than a year. The warning mentions four masked and armed individuals who tried to kidnap a U.S. federal government employee in broad daylight in Matamoros in February.

“All travelers should be aware of the risks posed by armed robbery and carjacking on state highways throughout Tamaulipas, particularly on highways and roads outside of urban areas along the northern border,” the warning says. “Traveling outside of cities after dark is particularly dangerous.”

No highway routes through Tamaulipas are considered safe, but many crimes reported by U.S. citizens to the consulate in Matamoros have occurred along the Matamoros-Tampico highway — a stretch of territory controlled by either the Gulf Cartel or Los Zetas.

“The number of kidnappings and disappearances throughout Mexico is of particular concern,” the warning says. “Both local and expatriate communities have been victimized. In addition, local police have been implicated in some of these incidents. We strongly advise you to lower your profile and avoid displaying any evidence of wealth that might draw attention.”

Beyond Tamaulipas, the warning recommends deferring travel to Nuevo León — except for the Monterrey metro area — and other states in northeast Mexico or along the Rio Grande, including San Luis Potosi state, Coahuila and Chihuahua. The warning gives mention to Brownsville native Jaime Zapata, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent gunned down by Zeta attackers along a highway in San Luis Potosi state in February 2011.

Not all of Mexico falls under the new travel warning. Beyond the border region no travel advisories are in effect for many areas farther south including Mexico City, Queretaro, Guanajuato, Puebla and states in the Yucatan Peninsula.