HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Mexico Rebukes U.S. For Travel Alert
Pubdate: Fri, 28 Jan 2005
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2005 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Ginger Thompson, NY Times


CANC=DAN, Mexico -- Mexican officials Thursday rebuked the United States
for issuing a diplomatic alert about a wave of drug-related violence
along the border in which a growing number of Americans have been
kidnapped or killed.

The State Department travel alert Wednesday said most Americans visit
Mexico without mishap, but it warned of ``deteriorating security''
marked by a sharp increase in kidnappings and slayings that put
Americans at greater risk.

In a separate letter to Mexican officials, the U.S. ambassador, Tony
Garza, expressed concern that state and local police on the Mexican
side of the border had failed at ``coming to grips'' with the fighting
among gangs struggling for control of the drug trade. And he wrote
that violence could have a ``chilling effect on the cross-border
exchange, tourism and commerce so vital to the region's

The letter stirred a storm in Mexico City, where the political classes
remain extremely sensitive to any threat of U.S. intervention, about
150 years after the United States took over more than half of Mexico's

``Mexico's fight against drug trafficking is firm,'' said a statement
released Thursday by President Vicente Fox. ``The Mexican government
does not admit judgment from any foreign government about political
actions taken to confront its problems.''

High-level officials went on national television to defend Mexico's
efforts to fight organized crime. Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez
angrily dismissed Garza's letter as an exaggeration. And in an
interview Thursday, Interior Minister Santiago Creel suggested that it
had crossed diplomatic boundaries.

Creel said that in recent years, Mexico and the United States had
collaborated like never before to fight drug trafficking, and that
Mexico had made unprecedented progress by putting some of this
country's most wanted kingpins in jail. ``I'd like to see more
kingpins in United States prisons,'' he said.

But in recent weeks it has become clear that Mexican prisons have not
confined the drug war as much as sheltered it. While new players have
emerged along the border and begun a new fight for control, kingpins
fight back from their prison cells, ordering assassinations and
running their operations with the help of corrupt guards and prison

Michael Yoder, the U.S. consul in Nuevo Laredo, warned last month that
the number of Americans kidnapped and killed had risen from about
three a year to more than 25 in the past six months.

Then, shootings inside Mexico's toughest prison, La Palma, raised
serious questions about Mexico's capacity to fight organized crime.
Two weeks ago, federal authorities raided La Palma to take back
control of the institution from incarcerated kingpins -- chiefly
Benjamin Arellano F=E9lix, the head of the so-called Tijuana Cartel, and
Osiel C=E1rdenas, the head of the Gulf Cartel.

A week later, the bodies of six workers at a maximum-security prison
in the city of Matamoros, just across the border from Brownsville,
Texas, were found just outside the prison walls. They had been
handcuffed, stuffed into a van and shot to death.

Wednesday, about 650 federal agents stormed the Matamoros penitentiary
and vowed to keep up their fight against organized crime.

Meanwhile, in a press conference in Mexico City, the deputy secretary
of public security, Miguel =C1ngel Yunes, said the government's worst
enemy came from within.

Searches of prison cells at La Palma, he said, made clear that
kingpins had held complete control of the prison for most of the past
three years.
- ---
MAP posted-by: SHeath(DPFFLorida)