MEXICAN drug cartels are out of control and students should not travel to the country for spring break, a former cop has warned.
Thousands of American college kids head to the Latin American country every year as they enjoy its stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife.
But, a wave of crime and violence has exploded as the country’s homicide rate has tripled since 2006 from 9.6 murders per 100,000 to 28 in 2021.
Los Zetas is considered one of the most dangerous of the cartels and has dealt in drug trafficking since its inception in 1999.
Popular tourist resort Puerto Vallarta is a “strategic stronghold” for The Jalisco New Generation Cartel for drug trafficking, according to the US Treasury.
And, the notorious Gulf Cartel, founded in the northern city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, was one of the most powerful drug smuggling organizations before splintering into several factions.
Four Americans were kidnapped in the border city earlier this month, sparking huge safety fears in the runup to spring break celebrations.
Michael Alcazar, a former New York Police Department detective, suggested Americans thinking about traveling to Mexico should reconsider their plans.
He warned: “Right now, it seems the most dangerous time [ever] to travel to Mexico.
“The Mexican Government doesn’t have any control over what’s happening with the cartels. The cartels seem to be running riot.”
Alcazar, who worked for the NYPD for more than three decades, said: “It’s not worth getting hurt, or killed, or kidnapped for a couple [of] weeks break from college.”
He added that revelers should visit locations such as Florida for spring break instead.
The warning comes after Texas Department of Public Safety director Steven McCraw said drug cartel violence “represents a significant safety threat” to anyone who enters Mexico.
He added: “Based on the volatile nature of cartel activity and the violence we are seeing there, we are urging individuals to avoid travel to Mexico at this time.”
Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has claimed the Latin American country is “safer” than the US.
Alcazar said: “Of course, Obrador is going to say that Mexico is safe. He doesn’t want to discourage travel.
“He also doesn’t want to look like that he’s lost control of his country.”
It’s not worth getting hurt, or killed, or kidnapped for a couple [of] weeks break from college.”
Alcazar warned that cartel members want innocent Americans to fear the organizations.
He said: “The cartels are very violent and more overt. They’re very violent and they want their violence to be feared.”
Two of the four Americans kidnapped were killed while the other two were taken hostage.
The victims were identified as Latavia “Tay” McGee, Shaeed Woodard, Eric James Williams, and Zindell Brown.
Woodard and Brown died in the shootout, a US official told CNN.
McGee was found uninjured and Williams suffered a bullet wound to the leg. They were returned to the U.S. for treatment in Brownsville.
A suspect, identified as 24-year-old Jose Guadalupe, was arrested in connection with the deadly kidnappings.
Five others have also been arrested, according to officials.
Barbara Burgess, 54, McGee’s mother, confirmed to ABC News that her daughter traveled from South Carolina to Mexico for a cosmetic medical procedure – scheduled on the day of the kidnappings.
The group was held hostage shortly after driving into Tamaulipas.
Investigators believed that cartels mistook the Americans for Haitian drug smugglers, US officials told CNN.
The Tamaulipas governor said the four friends were found in a “wooden stash house” around six miles from where they were kidnapped.
Three women remain missing two weeks after they crossed the Mexican border.
Alcazar said that Americans who have already booked plans to head to Mexico should consider getting a refund if they’re possible.
But, he offered students several tips on how they can keep themselves safe if they decide to travel.
Alcazar said: “They should be super cautious if they feel safe to travel.
“Americans should travel in groups -either with family or friends.”
He warned that Americans shouldn’t flash their cash when venturing out of the resort.
Alcazar added: “Cartels look for people that have money. They are hunting – that’s what they do.
“Americans are a commodity for cartels to make money.”
The US State Department has listed six Mexican states that Americans should not travel to amid the risks of crime and kidnapping.
These include: Colima, Guerrero, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas.
But, officials have warned Americans to exercise increased caution if in tourist hotspots such as Mexican City.
Alcazar was critical of the State Department’s response regarding the travel advisories.
He added: “It definitely feels they [the warnings] were more reactive than proactive.”
But, investigator Martin Sandoval, of the Brownsville Police Department in Texas, told The U.S. Sun that the entire country of Mexico cannot be “labeled” amid the rising crime.
He said: “There are certain parts of Mexico where there’s a high crime rate, but then there are other areas such as Cancun, where tourists go and people have fun and everything’s great.”