||U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory - Mexico
Travelers always want to know if Cozumel or Cancun are safe places to travel for a vacation. How safe is Mexico for me as a traveler? Is it safe to leave the ship or hotel and do a tour in Costa Maya? No one wants to go anywhere in the world and come into harm's way of course so the best way for a traveler to make such decisions is to research and investigate a place before travelling there. For more than a decade now this website has been answering these questions to the best of our ability.
Since tourist destination economies like Cozumel don't exist without travelers, those living/working in an area really have a conflict of interest when answering the "safety" question. If travelers stop going to a destination, everyone in the local economy suffers and of course no business wants to go broke. Consequently, it's up to travelers themselves to gather information not only from locals living and working in the area but from as many different sources as possible so as to make an informed decision about safety.
Because of the recent drug cartel related violence that swept through Mexico in recent years since 2006, the US State Department was pressured by various regional Mexican tourism agencies to move away from a general "broad" safety statement about Mexico and instead provide travelers with a more "regional" view of safety and security within Mexico. It goes without saying that any advisory or warning is based on information ~ crime statistics and events usually. Sadly, in many areas of Mexico dependent on tourism like Cozumel, police are not keen to have crimes reported/documented because it adversely affects the State crime statistics and then local economies suffer due to lack of tourism.
Remember this as you review the warnings for each area of Mexico: a majority of crime goes completely unreported and for those that are reported, the impunity rate in 2014 still stands at 98% (same as 2013)......meaning only 2% of REPORTED crime perpetrators get convicted.
Below is the most recent travel advisory issued by the US Department of State and to confirm this please visit the web links provided below to their website.
The good news continues to be that there are currently no regional security warnings in place that cover Quintana Roo, Cancun, Cozumel or Costa Maya so make vacation plans now to get here for some fun in the sun!
|U.S. Department of State Most Recent Travel Advisory Says|
08/13/2014 - U.S. citizens have been the target of violent crimes, such as kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery by organized criminal groups in various Mexican states. For information on security conditions in specific regions of Mexico, which can vary, travelers should reference the state-by-state assessments further below. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mexico, issued January 9, 2014, to update information about the security situation and to advise the public of additional restrictions on the travel of U.S. government (USG) personnel.
This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mexico, issued January 9, 2014, to update information about the security situation and to advise the public of additional restrictions on the travel of U.S. government (USG) personnel.
Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day. The Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that organized criminal groups have targeted U.S. visitors or residents based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes.
Nevertheless, U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter organized criminal groups that engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico. The groups themselves are engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity. Crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to criminal activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking, and highway robbery. While many of those killed in organized crime-related violence have themselves been involved in criminal activity, innocent persons have also been killed. The number of U.S. citizens reported to the Department of State as murdered in Mexico was 71 in 2012 and 81 in 2013.
Gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities have taken place in towns and cities in many parts of Mexico. Gun battles have occurred in broad daylight on streets and in other public venues, such as restaurants and clubs. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area. Criminal organizations have used stolen cars, buses, and trucks to create roadblocks on major thoroughfares, preventing the military and police from responding to criminal activity. The location and timing of future armed engagements is unpredictable. We recommend that you defer travel to the areas specifically identified in this Travel Warning and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the other areas for which advisories are in effect.
The number of kidnappings throughout Mexico is of particular concern and appears to be on the rise. According to statistics published by the Mexican Secretaria de Gobernacion (SEGOB), in 2013 kidnappings nationwide increased 20 percent over the previous year. While kidnappings can occur anywhere, according to SEGOB, during this timeframe, the states with the highest numbers of kidnappings were Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Michoacán, Estado de Mexico, and Morelos. Additionally, according to a widely publicized study by the agency responsible for national statistics (INEGI, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography), Mexico suffered an estimated 105,682 kidnappings in 2012; only 1,317 were reported to the police. Police have been implicated in some of these incidents. Both local and expatriate communities have been victimized. Nearly 70 kidnappings of U.S. citizens were reported to the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Mexico between January and June of 2014.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to lower their personal profiles and to avoid displaying indicators of wealth such as expensive or expensive-looking jewelry, watches, or cameras. U.S. citizens are encouraged to maintain awareness of their surroundings and avoid situations in which they may be isolated or stand out as potential victims.
Kidnappings in Mexico have included traditional, "express," and "virtual" kidnappings. Victims of traditional kidnappings are physically abducted and held captive until a ransom is paid for release. "Express" kidnappings are those in which a victim is abducted for a short time and forced to withdraw money, usually from an ATM, then released. A "virtual" kidnapping is an extortion-by-deception scheme wherein a victim is contacted by phone and convinced to isolate themselves from family and friends until a ransom is paid. The victim is coerced (by threat of violence) to remain isolated and to provide phone numbers for the victim's family or loved ones. The victim's family is then contacted and a ransom for the "kidnapped" extracted. Recently, some travelers to Mexico staying at hotels as guests have been targets of such "virtual" kidnapping schemes.
Of particular safety concern are casinos, sportsbooks, or other gambling establishments and adult entertainment establishments. U.S. government personnel are specifically prohibited from patronizing these establishments in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas.
Carjacking and highway robbery are serious problems in many parts of the border region, and U.S. citizens have been murdered in such incidents. Most victims who complied with carjackers' demands have reported that they were not physically harmed. Carjackers have shot at vehicles that have attempted to flee. Incidents have occurred during the day and at night, and carjackers have used a variety of techniques, including roadblocks, bumping/moving vehicles to force them to stop, and running vehicles off the road at high speeds. There are indications that criminals target newer and larger vehicles, especially dark-colored SUVs. However, even drivers of old sedans and buses coming from the United States have been targeted. While violent incidents can occur anywhere and at any time, they most frequently occur at night and on isolated roads. To reduce risk when traveling by road, we strongly urge you to travel between cities throughout Mexico only during daylight hours, to avoid isolated roads, and to use toll roads ("cuotas") whenever possible.
The Mexican government has deployed federal police and military personnel throughout the country as part of its efforts to combat organized criminal groups. U.S. citizens traveling on Mexican roads and highways by car or bus may encounter government checkpoints, staffed by military or law enforcement personnel. In some places, criminal organizations have erected their own unauthorized checkpoints, at times wearing police and military uniforms, and have killed or abducted motorists who have failed to stop at them. You should cooperate at all checkpoints.
The Department imposes restrictions on U.S. government employees' travel in Mexico. Since July 2010, USG employees are prohibited from driving on non-official travel from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior of Mexico or Central America. One exception is that personal travel by motor vehicle is permitted on Highway 15 toll road between Hermosillo and Nogales during daylight hours.
U.S. government personnel and their families are prohibited from personal travel to all areas to which it is advised to "defer non-essential travel". When travel for official purposes is essential, it is conducted with extensive security precautions. U.S. government personnel and their families are allowed to travel for personal reasons to the areas where no advisory is in effect or where the advisory is to exercise caution. While the general public is not forbidden from visiting places categorized under "defer non-essential travel," U.S. government personnel will not be able to respond quickly to an emergency situation in those areas due to security precautions that must be taken by U.S. government personnel to travel to those areas.
For more information on road safety and crime along Mexico's roadways, see the Department of State's Country Specific Information!
Below is a state-by-state assessment of security conditions throughout Mexico divided into Cozumel, northern and southern regions. The accompanying map will help in identifying individual locations. Travelers should be mindful that even if no advisories are in effect for a given state, crime and violence can occur anywhere. For general information about travel conditions in Mexico, see our Country Specific Information.
Quintana Roo - Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum are the major cities/travel destinations in Quintana Roo: No advisory is in effect.
Baja California (north) - Tijuana, Ensenada and Mexicali are major cities/travel destinations in the state of Baja California :
You should exercise caution in the northern state of Baja California, particularly at night. Criminal activity along highways and at beaches is a continuing security concern. In 2013, homicide rates in Tijuana and Rosarito increased 48 percent and 67 percent compared to the previous year, according to the Baja State Secretariat for Public Security, and both cities experienced further increases in homicide rates during the first half of 2014. While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured, have occurred during daylight hours.
Baja California (South) - Cabo San Lucas and La Paz are major cities/travel destinations in the state of SouthernBaja California: No advisory is in effect.
Chihuahua - Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua City and Copper Canyon are the major cities/travel destinations in Chihuahua:
Exercise caution in traveling to the business and shopping districts in the northeast section of Ciudad Juarez and its major industrial parks, and the central downtown section and major industrial parks in Chihuahua City. U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to other areas of these cities and anywhere else in the state of Chihuahua and travel during daylight hours between cities. In Ciudad Juarez, personal travel by U.S. government employees outside the north/central and northeast portion of the city near the Consulate General is restricted and private U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to those areas as well. In Chihuahua City, U.S. government personnel and their family members are permitted to travel only to the central business districts and the city's airport. Personal vehicular travel during daylight hours by U.S. government personnel and family members is authorized between Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua using the Highway 45 toll road. Although homicide rates in Ciudad Juarez have decreased markedly from a peak several years ago, the city still has one of the highest homicide rates in Mexico. Crime and violence remain serious problems throughout the state of Chihuahua, particularly in the southern portion of the state and in the Sierra Mountains, including Copper Canyon. U.S. citizens do not, however, appear to be targeted based on their nationality.
Defer non-essential travel to the state of Coahuila except the city of Saltillo, where you should exercise caution. Violence and criminal activity along the highways are continuing security concerns, particularly along the northern border between Piedras Negras and Nuevo Laredo. The state of Coahuila continues to experience high rates of violent crimes and narcotics-related murders. Criminal organizations continue to compete for territory and coveted border crossings to the United States. Violent crime, including murder, kidnapping, and armed carjacking, continues to be a concern.
Defer non-essential travel to the state of Durango except the city of Durango, where you should exercise caution. Violence and criminal activity along the highways are a continuing security concern. Several areas in the state continue to experience high rates of violence and remain volatile and unpredictable. U.S. government personnel may not travel outside the city of Durango and must abide by a curfew of 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. within a secured venue.
Nuevo Leon - Monterrey is a major city/travel destination in Nuevo Leon:
Defer non-essential travel to the state of Sinaloa except the city of Mazatlan, where you should exercise caution, particularly late at night and in the early morning. One of Mexico's most powerful criminal organizations is based in the state of Sinaloa, and violent crime rates remain high in many parts of the state. Travel off the toll roads in remote areas of Sinaloa is especially dangerous and should be avoided. We recommend that any travel in Mazatlan be limited to Zona Dorada and the historic town center, as well as direct routes to/from these locations and the airport.
San Luis Potosi:
Defer non-essential travel to the state of San Luis Potosi, except the city of San Luis Potosi, where you should exercise caution. Violence and criminal activity along highways are continuing security concerns. U.S. government personnel may not travel outside the City of San Luis Potosi and must abide by a curfew of 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. within a secured venue.
Sinaloa - Mazatlan is a major city/travel destination in Sinaloa:
You should defer non-essential travel to the state of Sinaloa except the city of Mazatlan where you should exercise caution, particularly late at night and in the early morning. One of Mexico's most powerful TCOs is based in the state of Sinaloa. With the exception of Ciudad Juarez, since 2006 more homicides have occurred in the state's capital city of Culiacan than in any other city in Mexico. Travel off the toll roads ("cuotas") in remote areas of Sinaloa is especially dangerous and should be avoided. We recommend that any travel in Mazatlan be limited to Zona Dorada and the historic town center, as well as direct routes to/from these locations and the airport.
Sonora - Nogales, Puerto Peñasco, Hermosillo, and San Carlos are the major cities/travel destinations in Sonora: Sonora is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades and can be extremely dangerous for travelers. Travelers throughout Sonora are encouraged to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours. The region west of Nogales, east of Sonoyta, and from Caborca north, including the towns of Saric, Tubutama, and Altar, and the eastern edge of Sonora bordering Chihuahua, are known centers of illegal activity, and non-essential travel between these cities should be avoided. Travelers should also defer non-essential travel to the eastern edge of the state of Sonora, which borders the state of Chihuahua (all points along that border east of the northern city of Agua Prieta and the southern town of Alamos), and defer non-essential travel within the city of Ciudad Obregon and south of the city of Navojoa. You should exercise caution while transiting Vicam in southern Sonora due to roadblocks that can be instituted ad hoc by local indigenous and environmental groups. U.S. citizens visiting Puerto Peñasco should use the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing, and limit driving to daylight hours.
Tamaulipas - Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Tampico are the major cities/travel destinations in Tamaulipas:
Defer non-essential travel to areas of Zacatecas near the border with other Mexican states. Exercise caution in the interior of the state including the city of Zacatecas. All U.S. government employees are prohibited from personal travel on Tamaulipas highways outside of Matamoros, Reynosa, and Nuevo Laredo due to the risks posed by armed robbery and carjacking, particularly along the northern border. Traveling outside of cities after dark is not recommended. While no highway routes through Tamaulipas are considered safe, the highways between Matamoros-Ciudad Victoria, Reynosa-Ciudad Victoria, Ciudad Victoria-Tampico, Monterrey-Nuevo Laredo, and Monterrey-Reynosa, are more prone to criminal activity. In Matamoros, U.S. government employees are subject to movement restrictions between midnight and 6 a.m.
You should defer non-essential travel within the state of Zacatecas to the area bordering the states of Aguascalientes, Coahuila, Durango, and Jalisco and exercise caution in the interior of the state including the city of Zacatecas. Robberies, carjackings, and organized criminal activity remain a concern. Gun battles between criminal groups and authorities have occurred in the area of the state bordering the state of Jalisco. Extreme caution should be taken when traveling in the remainder of the state. U.S. government personnel may not travel outside the city of Zacatecas after dark and must abide by a curfew of 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. within a secured venue.
You should exercise caution when traveling to the areas of the state that border the state of Zacatecas, as criminal organization activity in that region continues. There is no advisory in effect for daytime travel to the areas of the state that do not border Zacatecas. However, intercity travel at night is not recommended.
Campeche: No advisory is in effect.
Chiapas - San Cristobal de las Casas is a major city/travel destination in Chiapas: No advisory is in effect.
Colima - Manzanillo is a major city/travel destination in Colima:
Defer non-essential travel to the areas of the state of Colima that border the state of Michoacán, including the city of Tecoman. The security situation along the Michoacán border continues to be the most unstable in the state, with gun battles occurring between rival criminal groups and with Mexican authorities. Intercity travel at night is not recommended.
Estado de Mexico - Toluca and Teotihuacan are major travel destinations in Estado de Mexico:
Defer non-essential travel to the municipalities of Coacalco, Ecatepec, Nezahualcoyotl, La Paz, Valle del Chalco, Solidaridad, Chalco, and Ixtapaluca, which are eastern portions of the greater Mexico City metropolitan area, located just to the east of the Federal District of Mexico and Benito Juarez airport, unless traveling directly through the areas on major thoroughfares. These areas have seen high rates of crime and insecurity. You should also defer non-essential travel on any roads between Santa Marta in the southeast portion of the state and Huitzilac in the state of Morelos, including the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas.
Guanajuato - San Miguel de Allende and Leon are the major cities/travel destinations in Guanajuato: No advisory is in effect.
Guerrero - Acapulco, Ixtapa, Taxco and Zihuatanejo are the major cities/travel destinations in Guerrero:
Defer non-essential travel to all parts of the state, except for the cities of Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa, Taxco, and the caves at Grutas de Cacahuamilpa. Even in these tourist-friendly cities, you should exercise caution and stay within tourist areas. If driving to Taxco, only use federal toll road (“cuota”) 95D, exit at Puente de Ixtala/Iguala 91 and use 95 Cuernavaca-Iguala; return using the same route. Do not stop between the 95D toll road and Taxco. Gas refueling and rest breaks should be planned accordingly. You should also exercise caution and travel only during daylight hours on highway 95/95D between Mexico City and Acapulco. Use the toll road towards the Playa Diamante area and avoid the highway running through the city of Acapulco for travel to and from Acapulco. In Acapulco, defer non-essential travel to areas further than 2 blocks inland of the Costera Miguel Aleman Boulevard, which parallels the popular beach areas. Lodging for U.S. government personnel is limited to the hotel zone (“zona hotelera”) of Acapulco, beginning from the Hotel Avalon Excalibur Acapulco in the north and going south through Puerto Marquez including the Playa Diamante area. Any activity outside the hotel zone for U.S. government personnel is limited to the coastal area from La Quebrada to the beginning of the hotel zone and only during daylight hours. In general, the popular tourist area of Diamante, just south of the city, has been less affected by violence. Flying into the coastal cities in southern Guerrero remains the preferred method of travel. You should defer non-essential travel by land between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa; travel to Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa only by air, and exercise caution while in Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa. The state of Guerrero was the most violent state in Mexico in 2013, with 2,087 homicides and 207 reported cases of kidnapping, according to the Mexican Secretariado Ejecutivo Nacional de Seguridad Publica. Self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable.
Hidalgo: No advisory is in effect.
Jalisco - Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta and Lake Chapala are the major cities/travel destinations in Jalisco:
Defer non-essential travel to areas of the state that border the states of Michoacán and Zacatecas. The security situation along the Michoacán and Zacatecas borders continues to be unstable and gun battles between criminal groups and authorities occur. Concerns include roadblocks placed by individuals posing as police or military personnel and recent gun battles between rival criminal organizations involving automatic weapons. You should exercise caution in rural areas and when using secondary highways, particularly along the northern border of the state. Except for the areas of the state that border Michoacán, there is no advisory in effect for daytime travel within major population centers or major highways in the state of Jalisco. Intercity travel at night is not recommended. There is no recommendation against travel to Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta. There is also no recommendation against travel on principal highways in Jalisco between Guadalajara including the portions that cross into the southern portions of the state of Nayarit.
Mexico City (also known as the Federal District): No advisory is in effect. See also discussion in the section on Estado de Mexico for areas within the greater Mexico City metropolitan area.
Michoacán - Morelia is a major city/travel destination in Michoacán:
Defer non-essential travel to the state of Michoacán except the cities of Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas and the area north of federal toll road 15D, where you should exercise caution. U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling by land in Michoacán except on federal toll road 15D during daylight hours. Flying into Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas is the recommended method of travel. Attacks on Mexican government officials, law enforcement and military personnel, and other incidents of organized crime-related violence, have occurred throughout Michoacán. Federal authorities deployed some 9,000 federal security forces to Michoacán in January 2014 to address rising insecurity, particularly in the entire western part of the state. Due to criminal activity in Lázaro Cardenas, the Mexican military assumed direct control of the port in late 2013. Government authorities incorporated some of the self-defense groups that had operated independently of the government in recent months into a new state police unit in May. Armed members of some other self-defense groups maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable. Some groups in Michoacán are reputed to be linked to organized crime
Morelos: Cuernavaca is a major city/travel destination in Morelos:
Exercise caution in the state of Morelos due to the unpredictable nature of organized crime violence. You should also defer non-essential travel on any roads between Huitzilac in the northwest corner of the state and Santa Marta in the state of Mexico, including the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas. On August 24, 2012, two U.S. government employees were injured after being fired upon by Federal Police officers on a non-toll road north of Tres Marias, Morelos. Numerous incidents of organized crime-related violence have also occurred in the city of Cuernavaca.
Defer non-essential travel to areas of the state of Nayarit that border the states of Sinaloa or Durango, as well as all rural areas and secondary highways. There is no recommendation against travel to the Vallarta-Nayarit area in the southern portion of the state known as the Riviera Nayarit, Tepic, Xalisco, and San Blas, or to principal highways in the southern portion of the state used to travel from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta. Intercity travel at night is not recommended.
Oaxaca - Oaxaca, Huatulco and Puerto Escondido are the major cities/travel destinations in Oaxaca: No advisory is in effect.
Puebla: No advisory is in effect.
Queretaro: No advisory is in effect.
Quintana Roo - Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum are the major cities/travel destinations in Quintana Roo: No advisory is in effect.
Tabasco - Villahermosa is a major city/travel destination in Tabasco: No advisory is in effect.
Tlaxcala: No advisory is in effect.
Exercise caution when traveling in the state of Veracruz. The state of Veracruz continues to experience violence among rival criminal organizations. Mexican federal security forces continue to assist state and local security forces in providing security and combating organized crime.
Yucatan - Merida and Chichen Itza are the major cities/travel destinations in Yucatan: No advisory is in effect.
For more detailed information on staying safe in Mexico, please see the State Department's Country Specific Information for Mexico.
For the latest security information
For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the State Department's internet web site, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 001-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). U.S. citizens traveling or residing overseas are encouraged to enroll with the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens in Mexico, please contact the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate with responsibility for that person’s location in Mexico. For information on the ten U.S. consular districts in Mexico, complete with links to Embassy and Consulate websites, please consult the Mexico U.S. Consular District map. The numbers provided below for the Embassy and Consulates are available around the clock. The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-52-55-5080-2000; telephone within Mexico City: 5080-2000; telephone long distance within Mexico 01-55-5080-2000. U.S. citizens may also contact the Embassy by e-mail.
The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-52-55-5080-2000; telephone within Mexico City: 5080-2000; telephone long distance within Mexico 01-55-5080-2000. U.S. citizens may also contact the Embassy by e-mail.
You can reach the U.S. Consulate in Merida by dialing our main number.} From the United States, dial 011-52-999-942-5700. From within Mexico, dial 999-942-5700. You can also access Merida on-line via the US Consulate website.
Please review the new Mexico Travel Warning dated August 13, 2014 from the Department of State in its entirety on the Department of State website.