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.
As a result of the shootings, the drug lord's militants attacked two planes and killed three members of the security forces. At least 29 people were injured, 10 were killed.#Mexico #Plane #Attacked #DrugCartels pic.twitter.com/rhNpecdoh6— Madhaw Tiwari (@MadhawTiwari) January 6, 2023
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
⚠️ Canadians in #Mexico ⚠️— Travel.gc.ca (@TravelGoC) January 5, 2023
There is widespread violence in #Sinaloa State since the arrest of a cartel leader. The Culiacán and Mazatlán airports are closed. If you are there, limit your movements and shelter in place if possible. More info ▶️https://t.co/wVdAxQDbsG pic.twitter.com/TQa7Tcmvg6
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."
Aerial photography from a drone of the destruction that befell the Mexican city of Culiacán due to the war between the Mexican army and El Chapo gang (Sinaloa Cartel) in an attempt to return his son, who was arrested by the government.#Mexico pic.twitter.com/oqt4xsFNTN— THE GLOBAL NEWS. (@THE_GLOBE_N) January 6, 2023
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."
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