WASHINGTON — The U.S. is warning tourists to stay away from several areas of Mexico near the U.S. border because officials fear a prominent cartel leader's arrest could lead to violence in the area.
The Department of State on Friday upgraded the travel advisory for Baja California to level 3, which urges U.S. citizens to reconsider their travel plans due to the possibility of kidnapping or other violent crimes.
The advisory encompasses the cities of Tijuana and Rosarito in Baja California.
"U.S. citizens should expect to encounter increased Mexican law enforcement presence in those areas," according to the advisory. "Criminal organization assassinations and territorial disputes can result in bystanders being injured or killed."
The U.S did not publicly identify the cartel boss who was arrested. But the advisory likely referred to Francisco Torres, sometimes referred to as “El Duranguillo," who was taken into custody by Mexico's army on July 2.
According to Vice, his arrest led to a tense standoff between Torres' men and soldiers. The cartel members reportedly offered the soldiers 10 million pesos — worth about $500,000 — but the soldiers refused.
An hourlong gunfight broke out between the two factions. Video by Noticias Telemundo shows people running in a parking lot as the sound of gunfire rings out.
One man died in the firefight and four soldiers were wounded, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said.
For anybody traveling to Mexico, especially the Baja California area, the U.S. State Department urges caution. Travelers are advised to follow the following advice while across the border:
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Maintain a high level of vigilance and keep a low profile.
- Monitor local media for updates and in case of emergency, call 911.
- Review your personal security plans and follow the instructions of local authorities.