By Geoffrey Ramsey Guest blogger
Christian Science Monitor
updated 11/3/2011 3:01:41 PM ET 2011-11-03T19:01:41

According to data from the US State Department, the first six months of 2011 represented the most deadly period of the past eight years for US citizens in Mexico.

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From January 4 to June 11 of this year, 65 Americans were killed in Mexico, a 300 percent increase since 2003. This figure comes from La Opinion, which gained access to a report compiled by the US State Department. As the paper notes, the actual number of deaths may be higher in reality, as the figures only refer to voluntarily reported deaths.

Still, the numbers reveal some noteworthy patterns about the most dangerous places, statistically, for Americans in the country. The report found that Baja California, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Sonora, and Sinaloa have been the site of most of the violence, with a third of the deaths occurring in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana.

In its most recent travel advisory, issued on April 22, the State Department also warned US citizens to exercise extreme caution when traveling to the states of Michoacán, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, Guerrero, and Jalisco. Nevertheless, the State Department warning points out that “there is no evidence that US tourists have been targeted by criminal elements due to their citizenship,” a reminder that attacks on Americans are usually opportunistic, and not systemic in nature.

Geoffrey Ramsey is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of his research here.

© 2012 Christian Science Monitor

Video: Mexican drug cartels recruit US kids

  1. Transcript of: Mexican drug cartels recruit US kids

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: We have an NBC News exclusive tonight about a frightening trend in the drug war along the border between the US and Mexico . In the state of Texas , state officials are warning parents that Mexican drug cartels are now recruiting schoolchildren in the US to do their work as drug runners. NBC 's Mark Potter has been covering the war next door for us, and tonight he has the story of a 12-year-old boy caught up in all of it.

    MARK POTTER reporting: After a high-speed chase by police, a pickup truck crashed in Alamo , Texas , spilling nearly a half ton of Mexican marijuana bales, this video obtained exclusively by Telemundo . Officers say when they apprehended the lone driver of the truck, they discovered he was a mere 12-year-old boy.

    Mr. JOE RODRIGUEZ (Texas Department of Public Safety): It's shocking because it's not what we expect a 12-year-old to be doing.

    POTTER: For years, drug traffickers lured thousands of kids in Mexico to do their dirty work, body carrying drug loads and spying on police. This boy from San Diego says he was kidnapped in Mexico and forced to execute four people. When asked how to do it he said...

    Unidentified Boy:

    POTTER: ...'I decapitated them.' Now police say, with more drugs than ever coming into the US from Mexico , traffickers are recruiting kids on the American side of the border.

    Mr. WOODY LEE (United States Border Patrol): They can be just lured with the promise of drive this vehicle from point A to point B , you know, for a couple hundred dollars of cash, which seems a lot for a young person.

    POTTER: In Maverick County , Texas , where 25 juveniles were recently arrested on trafficking charges, Sheriff Tomas Herrera says the problem is getting worse.

    Sheriff TOMAS HERRERA: Now they're recruiting local kids from the high school , even the elementary.

    POTTER: Here along the Rio Grande , which separates Texas from Mexico , the numbers tell the scope of the problem. Fewer than 10 percent of the population live along the border, yet nearly 20 percent of juvenile felony drug cases are filed here. Texas police say the cartels consider kids expendable.

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ: The cartels really don't care about our children. They'll use them until they're no -- they can't use them anymore.

    Unidentified Police Officer: They'll go after you, they'll kidnap you.

    POTTER: US Border Patrol agents are going into classrooms, warning students against joining the cartels, showing graphic films about drug trade violence.

    POTTER: It's an uphill battle against cartel recruiters who have now set their sights on American kids. Mark Potter , NBC News, Mission, Texas .

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