US Officials: 'Avoid Mexico'

Gunbattles, Kidnappings Strike Fear in American Tourists

On the heals of a 15 ton meth bust in Mexico, U.S. officials are increasing the travel warnings to its neighbor to the south.

Mexican military troops seized more than 15 tons of methamphetamine on Wednesday.

The amount of methamphetamine seized is equivalent to half of all the seizures made in 2009, according to AP. The bust has a U.S. street value of about $4 billion.

"This could potentially put a huge dent in the supply chain in the U.S.," said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne. "When we're taking this much out of the supply chain, it's a huge deal."

But it's not enough to make the streets safe for travelers.

The U.S. State Department increased the number of places Americans should avoid in the country. The increase is the second time in less than a year.

The U.S. is warning Americans to avoid all but essential travel to 14 states in northern and central Mexico.

The main reason is the drug-related violence. Americans have been swept up in the cartel chaos, "including homicide, gunbattles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery."

The northern states, in particular, are extremely volatile and unpredictable. Murders and gun battles occur in broad daylight. Police, military and other law enforcement have taken to covering their faces to avoid becoming targets of the cartel violence.

Nearly 50,000 people have been killed in recent years. The violence saw a sharp increase in 2006, when President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country's drug cartels – sending the military on missions to crush the cartels, which were fighting over control of the routes into the U.S.

According to reports, 130 Americans were killed in Mexico last year – making it the deadliest year for U.S. residents in some time.

While many of the attacks happen along the border areas, the U.S. State Department warns that several other areas deeper in the country are also volatile and should be avoided.

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