Ever since the State Department issued a warning to U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the state of Tamaulipas in November of 2018, the Mexican border state has been working with the U.S. State Department to reduce or eliminate the travel warning.
Experts said Tamaulipas’ perception impacts both their economy and that of the Río Grande Valley.
Valley resident Roberto Villalón drives between McAllen and Reynosa nearly every day. Looking back at the last 15 years, he said safety in Reynosa has improved.
“Oh yes, before it used to be much more dangerous,” Villalón said.
State officials say they have been able to rebuild their state police and now have 3,000 officers patrolling cities across the state and major highways.
But even with the improvements, shootings in cities like Reynosa between armed groups and law enforcement, still happens and major incidents happen in bursts.
For those reasons, the U.S. State Department gave the state of Tamaulipas a level four warning, recommending U.S. citizens not to travel to that Mexican state due to crime.
"I think the no travel [warning is] extreme," said Teo Sepulveda, an economist at South Texas College.
Sepulveda said security has improved across the state. But the perception on violent crime has stayed the same, impacting the economies on both sides of the border.
Sepulveda said Mexican tourists would avoid going to the Valley due to crime in Reynosa and manufacturing growth in the city has plateaued due to crime, but also due to uncertainty with free trade negotiations.
“Improving the perception of the state of Tamaulipas is what we have been working most on,” said Francisco Galván, the Texas-Tamaulipas bilateral liaison. “Our goal is to try and have that travel warning eliminated or at least lowered over time.”
Galván said his office has been meeting with U.S. consulate officials in Tamaulipas border cities to change the perception that the entire state is dangerous. He said he wants the state department to specify which areas are more safe than others, such as Matamoros, Valle Hermoso and other destinations like Altamira and Tampico.
“I would like [the State Department] to be more fair in evaluating our state,” Galván said. “They shouldn’t generalize crime that happens in the state, not only in the type of homicides but that they regionalize safety recommendations in the state.”