Former FBI officials and national security advisors are warning Americans against traveling to Mexico after four US citizens were kidnapped by cartel members, leading to the murders of two of them.
Thomas Fuentes, who served as an assistant director to the FBI until 2008, told NewsNation on Tuesday that even resorts which appear to be “safe” can be dangerous, following the deaths of Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown, who were abducted along with Latavia McGee and Eric Williams by Gulf Cartel members while in the border town of Matamoros.
“While you're on the highway, you're vulnerable. Now, in this case, it sounds like the cartels had set up a checkpoint, basically like a tollgate, that you had to go through them,” Fuentes said. As reported by the publication, the four had crossed into Mexico from Brownsville, Texas, on Friday in a white minivan with North Carolina license plates. According to the victims' families, they were traveling to undergo a medical procedure.
“And it sounds like the van tried to run past that [checkpoint],” he added. “And that's when the cartels opened fire.”
Another ex-bureau official, former FBI Executive Assistant Director Josh Skule, told the outlet that the victims “ignored the ‘do not travel' warnings into a very dangerous area. This area of Mexico is very hotly contested.”
He continued, “It's an ongoing civil war, the Gulf Cartel, obviously very violent. Everybody should be concerned about traveling into that area.”
The state of Tamaulipas, where Matamoros is located, is under a travel advisory from the US government along with the majority of the other Mexican states. Out of 32, 30 are on the list with varying degrees of danger. For Tamaulipas, a popular border crossing point for US citizens visiting Mexico, the State Department warns Americans to not travel there “due to crime and kidnapping.”
Retired FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko also warned against Americans driving to Mexico, telling the Daily Mail that tourists should fly instead and to dress inconspicuously while there.
“Do not drive across the border if you want to go to Mexico… Fly in. Go to the tourist areas. That's where you're going to be the safest,” he said. “Let people know where you are. Don't wear jewelry. Don't flash cash. Don't dress so much like an American wearing uniforms from baseball teams or football teams.”
Another former national security advisor, Nayyera Haq, told the outlet that “The majority of Mexico is actually in the control of cartels. The government does not control all the territory there.”
“In fact, the government of Mexico for decades has been complicit in ceding control. It is wonderful to travel overseas. It is not the same as traveling in the United States, no matter what the bargain, or what the deal is that you can get,” he continued. “You have to understand what life is like for people in the country.”