Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador claimed on Monday that traveling to Mexico is safer than to the United States, pushing back against criticism from U.S. authorities who warned against traveling to the country due to recent kidnappings and other violent activities.
“Mexico is safer than the United States,” Lopez Obrador said during his daily morning press briefing in Mexico City. “There’s no problem with traveling safely across Mexico. That’s something the U.S. citizens know, and something our fellow countrymen know.”
The president’s remark comes after the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) urged residents to avoid traveling to Mexico, especially during spring break, citing an increase in violence and kidnapping.
“We have a duty to inform the public about safety, travel risks, and threats. 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,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said.
Lopez Obrador further claimed at Monday’s media address that travel warnings and reports of violence in his country are a direct result of a conspiracy against Mexico by American politicians and media outlets seeking to smear his administration.
“This is a campaign against Mexico by these conservative politicians in the United States who do not want the transformation of our country to continue,” Lopez Obrador said.
“It’s not that this violence you mention really exists,” he added. “It’s manipulation, pure and vile manipulation.”
Despite Lopez Obrador reassuring there’s “no problem with traveling safely” across Mexico, the country’s overall homicide rate remains among the highest in the world.
According to figures published by the World Bank in 2020, Mexico has a nationwide murder rate of 28 per 100,000 inhabitants, which is around four times higher than the United States, which stands at 7 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Currently, the U.S. Department of State has “do not travel” advisories for six of Mexico’s 32 states plagued by drug cartel violence, and “reconsider travel” warnings for another seven states.
On March 9, the State Department reiterated that it has a “Level 4” travel advisory in effect for portions of Mexico, including in Tamaulipas state—where four Americans were kidnapped. Level 4 is the highest warning in the agency’s travel advisory system.
Besides the United States—Canada, France, and the United Kingdom also have travel warnings in place for Mexico.
“Exercise a high degree of caution in Mexico due to high levels of criminal activity and kidnapping,” the Canadian government wrote in a travel notice last updated on March 3.
Stephanie Farr, CEO of Maya Luxe who is also an expert on tourist safety in Mexico, told Fox News Digital that tourist destinations like Cancun are “generally considered very safe.”
Farr said regions popular for travelers often “thrive off of tourism,” so it’s in their best interest “to keep the destination safe so that more tourists are coming.”
The travel agency founder noted that she always advises tourists traveling to Mexico to avoid getting caught “in any type of drug-related activities.”
Deadly Shootings and Kidnappings
On March 3, four Americans crossed the southern border for a road trip and veered off course. The group entered the border city of Matamoros when they were caught in a drug cartel shootout and were later loaded into a pickup truck.
The shooting left two Americans dead, as well as a Mexican citizen, while the other two Americans were held captive for days in a remote region of the Gulf Coast before they were rescued.
The slain Mexican woman, identified as 33-year-old Areli Pablo Servando, was apparently killed by a stray bullet.
Mexican authorities have since arrested five people in connection to the kidnappings and murders, Tamaulipas Attorney General Irving Barrios Mojica confirmed in a statement on Twitter last week.
The arrests came as a drug cartel allegedly involved in the kidnapping issued an apology over the incident, according to The Associated Press and CNN. A purported handwritten letter from the cartel was posted in a public area in Matamoros this week, while AP reported that a state law enforcement official provided the newswire service with the apology.
“We have decided to turn over those who were directly involved and responsible in the events, who at all times acted under their own decision-making and lack of discipline,” the letter reads, adding that the individuals went against the cartel’s rules, which include “respecting the life and well-being of the innocent.”
Epoch Times reporter Jack Phillips and The Associated Press contributed to this report.