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
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
"A lot of hard work lies ahead in our
common effort to put an end to lawlessness along our border,"
Up-to-date information on conditions affecting
travelers in Mexico is available on the State Department's
on the closing of the Nuevo Laredo consulate is available
at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico Web site.
Washington File Staff Writer