canadians stuck in mexico

Canada issues travel advisory for Mexico due to 'high levels of violence'

Government officials are currently urging Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to several parts of Mexico on account of "high levels of violence and organized crime" following the arrest of a drug cartel leader in Sinaloa State.

"There is widespread violence and security operations in Sinaloa State, particularly in Culiacán, Mazatlan, Los Mochis and Guasave since the arrest, on January 5, 2023, of a cartel leader," reads an advisory issued by the federal government on Thursday afternoon.

"There are burning cars, exchanges of fire and threat to essential infrastructure, including airports."

The warning comes after a plane scheduled to fly out of Culiacán was hit by gunfire on Thursday morning. No injuries were reported, but the airport closed down as violence raged across the city of roughly one million people.

Airports in Culiacán and Mazatlán have since reopened, while Las Mochis airport remains closed as of Jan. 6, 2023. Officials warn that "flight schedules have changed" and advise anyone travelling through the region to check their flight's status before leaving home.

The unrest is said to follow Mexico's arrest of cartel leader Ovidio Guzmán — son of the infamous (and still incarcerated) drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman — on Thursday.

At least 29 people were said to have been killed (10 military personnel and 19 gang members) during the takedown of El Chapo's son.

Canada's risk level for Mexico as a whole is listed as yellow, or "exercise a high degree of caution," due to "high levels of criminal activity and kidnapping."

The following specific areas are listed as orange on account of security operations, which means "avoid non-essential travel": on account of 

  • all Chihuahua
  • all Colima, except the city of Manzanillo
  • all Coahuila, except the southern part of the state at and below the Saltillo-Torreón highway corridor
  • all Durango, except Durango City
  • all Guerrero, except the cities of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo and Taxco
  • in Guanajuato
    • Highway 45 between León and Irapuato
    • the area south of and including Highway 45D between Irapuato and Celaya
  • all Michoacán, except the city of Morelia
  • in Morelos
    • the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas
    • the municipality of Xoxocotla
  • in Nayarit
    • the area within 20 km of the border with Sinaloa and Durango
    • the city of Tepic
  • all Nuevo León, except the city of Monterrey
  • all Sinaloa, except the city of Mazatlán
  • all Sonora, except the cities of Hermosillo and Guaymas/San Carlos and Puerto Peñasco
  • all Tamaulipas
  • all Zacatecas

Some airlines are preemptively cancelling flights into and out of the region from parts of Canada, though Toronto has yet to be one of them.

"We are monitoring the civil unrest in Sinaloa State closely and out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our guests and crews have proactively cancelled operations to and from Mazatlán International Airport today, January 6, 2023," said WestJet to blogTO on Friday, listing two cancellations impacting Vancouver.

"As the situation continues to evolve, we will make operational changes in the name of safety as necessary. We advise all guests currently in the region to follow all response instructions provided by local authorities."

Sunwing told blogTO similarly that it has cancelled all of today's southbound departures to Mazatlan "in consultation with government and out of an abundance of caution."

"This affects departures from Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna and Vancouver," said a rep for the airline.

"Please note that impacted customers with cancelled southbound departures will receive a full refund to their original form of payment. No action is required from customers and refunds will be processed within 30 days."

 "None of the places we fly to in Mexico are affected by the current unrest," said Air Canada of the situation on Friday by email. "However, we are watching the situation closely."

For any Canadians who may already be in Sinaloa and unable to return home at this time, federal officials advise sheltering in place.

"Limit your movements and shelter in place if possible. Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place. Don't attempt to cross road blockades, even if they appear unattended," reads the travel advisory.

"Allow extra time to reach your destination, expect an increased presence of security forces, monitor local media for information on the evolving situation, [and] follow the instructions of local authorities."

Lead photo by

Daniel Apodaca

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