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The kidnapping and murder of American visitors to a Mexican border town has ramped up concerns about travel safety in Mexico, with Texas officials warning against spring break trips south of the border and Mexico’s president countering that his country is safer to visit than the U.S.

Last week, four South Carolina residents crossed the U.S./Mexico border at Brownsville, Texas, en route to a medical facility in the adjoining city of Matamoros, Mexico. According to police reports, the van they were driving in was intercepted and fired upon by gunmen associated with the Gulf drug cartel. The wounded passengers were kidnapped, and two died before being rescued days later.

The cartel later issued an apology for the crime and handed over five men it said were involved in the shooting and kidnapping “under their own determination and indiscipline and against [cartel] rules.”

In response, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) urged state residents to avoid traveling to Mexico during spring break and beyond “due to the ongoing violence throughout that country.”

“Drug cartel violence and other criminal activity represent a significant safety threat to anyone who crosses into Mexico right now,” said Texas DPS Director Steven McCraw. The agency added, “DPS understands many people do travel to Mexico without incident, but the serious risks cannot be ignored.”

The U.S. State Department also warns Americans against traveling to many regions of the country, including Tamaulipas state, where Matamoros is located. The warning specifically cites the danger of crime and kidnapping.

‘Mexico is Safer than the United States’

However, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador toldn reporters on Monday that “Mexico is safer than the United States.”

“There is no issue with traveling safely through Mexico,” he said during a press briefing. “That’s something the U.S. citizens also know, just like our fellow Mexicans that live in the U.S.”

“U.S. government alerts say that it’s safe to only travel [to] Campeche and Yucatan,” said Lopez Obrador. “If that were the case, so many Americans wouldn’t be coming in to live in Mexico City and the rest of the country. In the past few years is when more Americans have come to live in Mexico. So, what’s happening? Why the paranoia?”

The overall crime rate in Mexico is only slightly higher than that in the U.S. However, the murder rate in Mexico is more than four times higher than in the U.S., although Mexican tourism officials argue that visitors to the country are far less likely to be victims of violent crime.