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U.S. State Department Expands Travel Warnings For Mexico's Beachside Tourist Meccas

Mexican federal police patrol a beach in Cancun earlier this year, after a shooting shook a local nightclub the day before.

The U.S. State Department has released an updated travel advisory for Mexico, expanding its warnings specifically about the regions home to some of the country's most popular tourist destinations.

The agency cautioned U.S. citizens that homicide rates are on the rise in areas such as the states of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, and Baja California Sur, which is home to Los Cabos.

Citing Mexican government statistics, the State Department noted on Tuesday that so far 2017 has seen much higher rates of violence in those regions than during the same period last year.

"While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens," the department writes of both states, as well as of Baja California. "Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured or killed, have occurred."

The advisory also added warnings for the states of Chiapas and Veracruz, bringing the total number of Mexican states covered under the advisory from the U.S. government to 23 — or roughly three-fourths of the states in the entire country.

Yet tourist meccas like the beach resorts of Quintana Roo and Baja California Sur have the potential to be hard hit by such injunctions. Quintana Roo — home not only to Cancun, but also Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel — alone draws 10 million tourists a year alone, according to Bloomberg.

So far this year, homicides in these regions far outpaced the numbers recorded last year. The Los Angeles Times explains:

"In Quintana Roo, the state where Cancun is located, 169 killings were reported from January to July, more than twice as many as during the same period last year.

"In Baja California Sur, home to Los Cabos and Cabo San Lucas, 232 slayings have been reported this year, nearly four times as many as during the same period last year."

The newspaper notes the rise in homicides might be traced to a burgeoning demand for heroin in the U.S., which in turn has exacerbated rivalries between Mexican drug cartels, coupled with a certain amount of chaos born of some resorts' rapid growth.

As NPR's Carrie Kahn has reported, "more than 11,000 murders were registered in the first five months of this year, putting 2017 on track to be the most violent since the Mexican Revolution."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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