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Students warned against vactioning in Mexico

Though it’s long been a popular spring break destination, USF administrators are advising students to avoid Mexico this month.

Drug wars and disputes in border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez are behind the safety concern, said Nanci Newton, director of the Advocacy Program.

“We are not telling students not to go to Mexico, but want them to have the message of safety instilled in them before they begin their breaks,” she said.

While American tourists have not been targets of the violence, Newton said some have been caught in the crossfire. In Ciudad Juarez, for example, Mexican authorities report that 1,800 people have been killed since January 2008. The city also experienced more than 17,000 car thefts and 1,650 carjackings, according to the U.S. State Department Web site.

The State Department Web site reported that South Padre Island, a spring break hot spot on the southern coast of Texas, has also seen escalated violence because of its close proximity to Mexico.

“Some dangers that students should be concerned about when visiting the coastal regions of Mexico are using unmarked taxi cabs at night,” Newton said. “These unmarked cabs pose a threat to tourists because they are not real taxis and anyone can be manning these vehicles and possibly harm and rob the tourists that get in them.”

Holly Murphy, assistant director of Student Health Services, said it is important that students understand potential safety concerns before traveling out of the country next week.

“Students should realize the big safety issues that are prominent wherever they go so then they are prepared and take preventative measures,” she said.

Sgt. Charlotte Domingo of University Police said students should use common sense and trust their instincts to avoid dangerous situations while they are on vacation.

“It is important for spring breakers to do their research before they visit other countries with different cultural backgrounds,” she said. “Also, students should have itineraries and plans of what they are going to do. (They) should keep in contact with family and friends back home of these plans and (their) whereabouts.”

The State Department Web site lists travel alerts for tourists in Mexico and details the reasons for them.

USF’s Advocacy Program has created fliers with further information about travel alerts for Mexico, available at SVC Room 1138.

“These fliers are to better inform students of the issues that are happening around the popular destinations for spring break,” Newton said. “The violence in Mexico is serious and we want our students to be educated on these issues and know the safety concerns.”

When it comes to planning a spring break trip — no matter where — proper preparation is key, Murphy said.

“Students should also become aware of the culture and laws of where they are traveling abroad to,” she said. “This ensures that the student will be better informed and not get into trouble.”

Having students understand what is happening along the Mexican-American border during their vacation will be crucial to safety, officials said. Domingo said students should research their spring break destinations in advance, taking note of emergency numbers and services in the area.

“It is important for students to monitor the current events that are occurring within their destinations and become aware of the issues going on in the particular area of visit to ensure their safety and well-being,” Domingo said. “Students on spring break should have a good time, but safety is the top priority, especially when traveling.”