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U.S. Ambassador Concerned by Rising Violence on Mexican Border

Tony Garza says violence affects bilateral commerce, tourism

By Eric Green | Washington File Staff Writer | 27 January 2005

Washington -- The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, has expressed concern about escalating violence along the U.S.-Mexican border.

In a January 26 letter to Mexican government officials, Garza explained why the U.S. State Department felt compelled to issue a "Public Announcement" that same day to alert U.S. citizens to the current security situation along the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border in the wake of increased violence among drug traffickers.

Garza said that while violence along the border is not a new phenomenon, "the escalating fighting among drug-cartel elements has meant sharp increases in murders and kidnappings."

The ambassador said he is worried that the "inability of local law enforcement to come to grips with rising drug warfare, kidnappings, and random street violence will have a chilling effect on the cross-border exchange, tourism, and commerce so vital to the region's prosperity."

In his letter to Mexico's Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez and Mexico's Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha, the U.S. ambassador also said he applauds the "strong expressions of concern" about the violence that have been voiced by Mexican President Vicente Fox, adding that Fox's commitment "will make a difference at the state and local levels."

Garza said that although Americans do not appear to be the specific targets of the crimes, the elevated level of violence has resulted in greater risks to the thousands of U.S. citizens visiting and passing through the border region every day.

"Increased numbers of murdered and kidnapped Americans in recent months bear this out," said Garza.

He stressed that "we certainly do not want at this time to advise Americans to refrain from traveling to Mexico by land or to avoid the border areas, but it is our responsibility to alert them to the enhanced risks and to provide guidance on how best to protect themselves."

The State Department announcement said that violent criminal activity along the U.S.-Mexico border increased as a result of a war between criminal organizations struggling for control of the lucrative narcotics trade along the border.

The leaders of several major criminal organizations have been arrested, creating a power vacuum and producing a wave of violence aimed primarily at members of those trafficking organizations and criminal justice officials, said the State Department.

The State Department also pointed out that the overwhelming majority of the victims of violent crime in the border region have been Mexican citizens.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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