April 22, 2007 in Nation/World

Americans warned to avoid parts of Mexico

Alfredo Corchado Dallas Morning News
 

MONTERREY, Mexico – The U.S. State Department is warning Americans of ongoing drug violence in several parts of Mexico, including states along the Texas border. The move comes as emboldened traffickers have posted written death threats against government officials and their families – attaching them with ice picks to the bodies of victims, U.S. and Mexican officials said.

In the past month, at least three bodies have been found in the Monterrey area with messages accusing Nuevo Leon state authorities of favoring rival cartel groups and warning of reprisals against them and their families, authorities said.

“This won’t end until you understand,” one note said.

“The environment has never been this tense,” said a U.S. State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We’ve never seen our counterparts as worried about their personal safety as they are today.”

“We’re all walking on eggshells,” said a Nuevo Leon state official, “hoping that the messages they’re leaving behind aren’t directed at us.”

Direct threats against government officials and their families are unusual in Mexico, authorities say.

While confirming the threats, the Mexican official reiterated President Felipe Calderon’s vow to crack down on drug traffickers, whose turf battles so far this year have claimed the lives of more than 700 people nationwide. Last year, more than 2,000 people were killed.

Calderon, who recently disclosed that he, too, had received death threats, said, “I want to reiterate that we will not only persevere in our cause, but the more violence we face from those who criminalize our youth, the more energetic the response will be from the government.”

Two of the states listed in the State Department’s travel advisory are Nuevo Leon, “especially in and around Monterrey,” and Tamaulipas, “particularly Nuevo Laredo.” The travel advisory also includes the popular beach city of Acapulco.

While much of the violence is between rival cartels battling over control of drug routes into the United States and for new emerging drug markets in Mexico, the U.S. government warned that foreigners also faced risks.

“U.S. citizens should make every attempt to travel on main roads during daylight hours,” the State Department said in the announcement, which replaces one issued in January.

The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, added, “We ask U.S. citizens to exercise all due caution while in Mexico and remain vigilant for any situation that could become dangerous.”


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