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Violence Prompts U.S. To Close Consulate in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

Consulate closes for one week August 1 due to drug gang crime along border

Posted: August 1, 2005 Related item: Increased violence prompts new warning on travel to Mexico  

Washington -- An armed battle July 28 between criminal drug gangs in the U.S.-Mexico border region and continued violence along that border has caused the United States to close its consulate in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, for one week starting August 1, says Tony Garza, U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

In a July 29 statement, Garza said he decided to suspend all operations at the consulate except for emergency services for U.S. citizens.

"I have made this decision so that we can assess the security situation for our employees, American travelers to the region, and visitors to the consulate," Garza said in a statement posted on the U.S. Embassy Web site in Mexico City.

As part of the U.S. Embassy's security assessment, "we will be gauging what should be a swift and certain response from the government of Mexico, to bring this situation under control," the ambassador said.

Garza said that the security situation will be reassessed at the end of this one-week period, and "we will determine whether conditions will permit the resumption of normal consular operations in Nuevo Laredo."

News reports said a group of armed men arriving July 28 in several vehicles fired machine guns at a home on a street in Nuevo Laredo. People inside the house were said to have returned fire with powerful weapons of their own, and a massive shootout followed. The gun battle also involved the use of grenades and a rocket launcher. No one was reported injured in the battle.

The closing of the consulate follows the U.S. State Department extending its previous warnings on travel to Mexico, citing increased violence on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Garza said July 26 that more than 100 violent deaths have occurred on the Mexican border since June. Garza said 18 policemen in the Mexican state of Nuevo Laredo have been killed in 2005, including eight in July.

"These disturbing reports make clear that Mexico needs to do much more to bring safety and security to our common border," said Garza, who noted that the State Department had issued two previous warnings in 2005 on the subject of traveling to Mexico.

At the same time, the ambassador acknowledged that the Mexican government is beginning to address concerns about the "unacceptable level of violence along our border." Putting an end to violence along the border is a "shared responsibility" of the United States and Mexico, he stressed.

As a "friend of Mexico and a partner in its struggle to restore order to the area," the United States is providing assistance to its southern neighbor's law enforcement agencies and regional governments, Garza said.

"A lot of hard work lies ahead in our common effort to put an end to lawlessness along our border," he added.

Up-to-date information on conditions affecting travelers in Mexico is available on the State Department's Consular Information Sheet.

Garza's statement on the closing of the Nuevo Laredo consulate is available at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico Web site.

Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer



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